VenueNext, SeatGeek part of new app for Minnesota United FC

The Minnesota United football club has chosen stadium- and team-app provider VenueNext to build a new app for next season, when the MLS team moves into its new home, Allianz Field. According to an announcement from the team, the app will also include SeatGeek’s ticketing technology, the first time VenueNext has directly integrated SeatGeek into one of its team apps.

So far we don’t have any looks at the functionality of the app, which is slated to be ready for the 2019 season. The deal is VenueNext’s second MLS win, following an agreement to provide an app for D.C. United and its new home, Audi Field. It also represents another Twin Cities win for VenueNext, which is also the app developer for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings as well as the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Lynx.

Philadelphia Flyers pick Venuetize for new stadium app

Screen shot of Venuetize’s new app for the Philadelphia Flyers and Wells Fargo Center.

The NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers have tapped app builder Venuetize for the team’s new stadium app for Wells Fargo Center, an app that includes digital ticketing support for now with other features planned for a later arrival.

According to a press release from the Flyers and Venuetize, the new app will allow fans to completely manage, transfer and scan tickets for all events at Wells Fargo Center, eliminating the need to print paper tickets at home. While the release did not specify which additional features would be available soon, screen shots of the app showed support for digital parking tickets and the ability to order concessions through the device.

The win with the Flyers is the second NHL deal for Venuetize this year, following being picked to develop the Tampa Bay Lightning’s new app earlier this year. Venuetize also counts the Detroit Red Wings and the Buffalo Sabres among its team-app clients.

Paying for beer with a fingerprint gets thumbs-up at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field

A fan at a Seattle Seahawks game pays for concessions using his fingerprint, via the Clear system. Credit all photos: David Kapustka, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

Seattle football and soccer fans are giving a big thumbs-up to a new concessions system at CenturyLink Field that lets them buy a beer or other items simply by tapping their fingerprint at payment time.

Clear, the same firm that gives travelers a way to pay for access to faster security lines at airports, is now moving into sports venues with a free version of its plan to let fans enter stadiums via special “Clear” lines. In Seattle, Clear and the Seahawks and Sounders are also testing a point-of-sale system where registered Clear users can pay for concessions and be age-verified by simply tapping their finger on a special concession-stand device. Currently, the system is only in use at four concession stands at CenturyLink but Seattle network executives said there are plans to expand the offering as the seasons progress. The system was also used earlier this season at the Seattle Mariners’ home, Safeco Field.

With more than 1,500 football and soccer fans having signed up for Clear at the stadium through the first week of October, Clear and CenturyLink are now seeing an average of around 1,000 fans using Clear to enter the stadium per football game and 200-plus similar verifications at Seattle Sounders games, according to statistics provided to MSR by Chip Suttles, vice president of technology for the Seahawks. The stadium started offering the service this preseason for both the NFL and MLS events. Fans who had previously signed up for Clear either at airports or online can use that same membership to enter the stadium.

The workings of the concession system are pretty simple: Once a user signs up for Clear — which requires personal data including age and a valid credit card — the user orders food and drink at the concession stand window, then completes the transaction with a fingertip tap in a special counter device. The biometrics confirm both that a user is old enough to purchase alcohol, and has a valid credit card to bill, eliminating the need for personal eyewitness verification of I.D. and the time needed to transact via credit card or cash.

At the Seahawks’ Oct. 7 home game against the Los Angeles Rams, another 199 fans enrolled for the Clear system on-site, and 911 fans used Clear to get into the venue, according to Suttles. The Clear system was used for 239 concession transactions at the game.

Speeding up the concessions lines

Fans could sign up for Clear inside and outside CenturyLink Field.


While the numbers may seem small right now, the promise of using technology to produce much faster concessions transactions are a welcome beginning to an area of stadium operations that in many places seems stuck in the far past, with cash transactions and counter staffers who take orders, fulfill them and then take payments.

“We are always looking for new, innovative ways to enhance the fan experience,” said Suttles, who said feedback so far from Seahawks and Sounders fans has been overwhelmingly positive. David Kapustka, Seattle Bureau Chief for Mobile Sports Report, attended the Seahawks’ Sept. 23 home game against the Dallas Cowboys and did an on-site test of the Clear system, and not just for the free beer Clear was offering as a sign-up promotion.

Once signed up for the system, Kapustka reported that the concession-stand finger-scan interaction “took less than a minute,” though there was some waiting beforehand to order since the Clear payment lanes share space with regular ordering and payment lanes at the two stands where the Clear service was offered that day.

The only drawbacks Kapustka saw for the Clear operation had mainly to do with its popularity, as a long line of fans queued up before the game to sign up at a Clear kiosk, ironically causing some delay for fans getting into the stadium. Once inside, one request Kapustka heard from fans was to have more Clear-enabled lines, feedback that Clear and the network folks are probably glad to hear. (More photos from our visit below)

Like many venues, CenturyLink Field has long lines for entry security measures

The Clear sign-up kiosk outside the stadium

A long line before the game started to sign up for Clear

One of the Clear-enabled concession stands at CenturyLink Field. Note the non-existent line at the Clear lane

Another fan taps a fingertip to pay

Good promotion

There’s good Wi-Fi at CenturyLink too

Team-app builder Built.io acquired by Software AG

Screenshot of part of the Built.io app for the Kings.

San Francisco startup Built.io has been acquired by German software giant Software AG, a deal that will not mean the end to Built.io’s nascent stadium- and team-app business, according to an update from the company.

Started in 2007 as a company with tools to help enterprise businesses move operations to the cloud, Built.io made a splash in the sports scene when it was chosen as the base technology for the stadium and team apps for the Sacramento Kings and their tech-centered new stadium, Golden 1 Center. Built.io subsequently announced a separate business focused on sports operations, and signed the Miami Heat as its second client.

Publicly, Built.io has not announced any new sports customers since last year, and founder and former CEO Neha Sampat has shifted duties somewhat to another company that was part of a sort of conglomerate inside Built.io, a bit of a confusing situation that was cleared up with this message from a Built.io spokesperson late Friday:

Before its acquisition today, Built.io was the best known of the brands under the umbrella of a company called Raw Engineering, which also comprised the sports business and a company named Contentstack. Neha Sampat is still very much involved with Raw Engineering as president, and with Contentstack as CEO. Until recently, these three businesses – Raw Engineering, Built.io and Contentstack – all operated as one company, Raw Engineering, which was doing business as Built.io because that was the best known brand. In 2017, the decision was made to split the organization, in part to differentiate the sports offering and not have it be continuously confused with the things that Built.io was really known for, which is the enterprise integration platform. That platform [Built.io] was the business that Software AG acquired today.

According to the company spokesperson, the sports app business is still alive and well, so we will keep an eye out for more news from that standpoint.

Why is venue parking still mainly low-tech?

Mountain View city sign to parking lots

If it’s not the number one pain point for a fan’s game day experience, parking is at least in the top five headaches list for any venue, and from where we sit it’s a puzzle as to why we haven’t heard more success stories about technology-based parking systems. Is it mainly due to lack of control of real estate and venue services contracts, or is it just a low priority that is still an overlooked possible money maker?

For every press release or story we hear about charging fans extra for an in-stadium “experience” like meeting team members during a practice or shootaround, I’m confused as to why there aren’t similarly numerous stories about premium parking plans that are available to the everyday fan, and not just season-ticket holders. At just about any venue we’ve been to, it’s easy to spot where the club-level patrons get to park their late-model imports: Right near the door.

No parking perks for regular fans

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That’s an obvious perk for those who are scratching big checks, but what about the thousands of “regular” fans whose best bet is often just to arrive hours before game time to get a better spot? Why aren’t there more systems that would allow the upper-deck crowd to spend maybe 10 or 20 bucks more to guarantee a closer spot, or one with other amenities (close to the exit, bathrooms, etc.)? Is it because teams may not have control over lot spaces, or is it just due to lack of interest and/or creative thinking?

Maybe we need to dig deeper to find these stories ourselves, but if this kind of thing is happening at your venue, let us know. Though I don’t qualify for handicapped status, on some days a flareup in my surgically repaired back would make it extremely worthwhile for me to pay extra to be closer to the stadium, or to park in a lot that has a shuttle or pedicab service. I’d also pay a premium to be able to reserve a spot next to a friend, to make sure we can tailgate together.

Uber, Lyft causing cellular overload?

I also throw ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft into the mix here, and wonder if any venue has successfully solved what I call the “Uber overload” problem. Even as most venues now have a set-aside area for Uber and Lyft dropoff and pickup, I have now twice heard of a problem I’d bet is duplicated in many other venues: Namely, ride-share services that are screwed up because there isn’t enough connectivity outside the stadium to handle the crush of fans seeking that final connection with their driver.

Can you find your way to the Uber pickup at MSP? Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

In one place I heard of this happening — AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas — the Uber driver I was with said that many drivers had the experience of getting a ride request, only to be unable to find (and confirm) the ride because neither driver nor rider could connect outside the stadium walls. Maybe that’s improved lately (this conversation was a year ago) but the driver told me an interesting workaround — drivers en route to AT&T Stadium would first head to a fast-food restaurant on the parking lot fringes and use the restaurant’s free Wi-Fi signal to tell riders to meet them there. Anyone else out there have this problem and/or found a solution? Let me know. I will also start trying to check ride-sharing services and parking at stadiums in our profile visits, so stay tuned.

In forward-thinking places like the Westfield-managed Century City Mall we’ve seen parking technology installed with priority status, perhaps because a guaranteed place for the car is of higher importance to shoppers than to eventgoers. We have seen some parking startups help teams and venues shift payment systems to digital platforms, which has produced savings in time and money from the inevitable failures of cash-based transactions through a car window. But that seems like just the start. If your team, venue or startup has a story to tell here, you know where to find us.

VenueNext names Orlando’s Perez as new CEO

Anthony Perez

Anthony Perez, former chief marketing officer for the Orlando Magic, has been named the new CEO of stadium- and team-application developer VenueNext, replacing founding CEO John Paul.

According to a VenueNext press release, Perez had been with the Magic for the past 10 years in “various leadership roles,” including executive vice president for strategy and CMO, a title he gained in 2017. According to the release, Perez helped develop the Magic’s virtual currency strategy which has been one of the big successes for VenueNext as its app powers the program. The Magic were VenueNext’s first NBA customer and the second customer overall after the San Francisco 49ers.

Former CEO Paul will remain as vice chairman on VenueNext’s board, and according to the release will assist the company on future moves like a planned expansion into European markets. A longtime computer industry veteran, Paul led VenueNext’s charge into the app market for stadiums and arenas with a strategy based more on enabling services like ticketing, loyalty programs and mobile concession ordering and delivery, with the Niners’ new Levi’s Stadium as its proof of concept platform in 2014.

With $24 million in venture funding as of 2016, VenueNext appears to be in good shape, even if it is still a ways away from reaching its publicly claimed target of 30 customers that Paul said it would have three years ago. While the company’s website does not have a full list of customers, VenueNext has said in the past that it does have clients signed already in the healthcare and hospitality markets, but cannot name them due to confidentiality agreements.