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

Editor’s note: This essay is from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, an in-depth look at successful deployments of stadium technology. Included with this report is a profile of a new MatSing ball DAS deployment at Amalie Arena, a new under-seat DAS deployment for the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, and a look at the new DAS at Wrigley Field! DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY now!

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.

Eagles see 8.76 TB of Wi-Fi data for NFC Championship game on new Panasonic network

Panasonic Everest Wi-Fi APs (lower left, middle right) mounted underneath an overhang at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Credit: Panasonic (click on any photo for a larger image)

The Philadelphia Eagles saw 8.76 terabytes of Wi-Fi data used at Lincoln Financial Field on Jan. 21 during the Eagles’ 38-7 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship game, a new high in one-day Wi-Fi usage for reported marks in games not called the Super Bowl.

Though the game’s position as No. 3 on our unofficial “top Wi-Fi” list (see below) may change as we get reports from other recent NFL playoff games, the mark is nevertheless impressive, and perhaps a big confirmation metric for Panasonic’s nascent big-venue Wi-Fi business. According to Panasonic, its 654-Access Point network inside “The Linc” also saw 35,760 unique connections during the game, out of 69,596 in attendance; the network also saw a peak of 29,201 concurrent devices connected (which happened during the post-game trophy presentation), and saw peak throughput of 5.5 Gbps.

What’s most interesting about the new Panasonic network in Philadelphia is that it is a completely top-down deployment, meaning that most of the APs (especially the 200 used in the seating bowl) shoot signals down toward seats from above. While most new networks at football-sized stadiums (and some smaller arenas) have turned to under-seat or railing-mounted APs to increase network density in seating areas, Panasonic claims its new “Everest” Wi-Fi gear has antennas that can provide signals up to 165 feet away, with “electronically reconfigurable directional beam profiles” that allow for specific tuning of where the Wi-Fi signal can point to.

By also putting four separate Wi-Fi radios into each access point, Panasonic also claims it can save teams and venues money and time on Wi-Fi deployments, since fewer actual devices are needed. By comparison, other big, new network deployments like Notre Dame’s often have a thousand or more APs; Notre Dame, which uses railing-mounted APs in the seating bowl, has 685 in the seating bowl out of a total 1,096 APs. Many of the Notre Dame APs are Cisco 3800 devices, which have two Wi-Fi radios in each AP.

‘The Linc’ before last week’s NFC Championship game. Credit: Kiel Leggere, Eagles

Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which uses Aruba Wi-Fi gear mainly deployed under seats in the bowl, has nearly 1,800 APs, with 1,000 of those in the seating bowl.

Antennas close to fans vs. farther away

From a design and performance standpoint, the under-seat or railing-mounted “proximate” networks are built with many APs close together, with the idea that fans’ bodies will intentionally soak up some of the Wi-Fi signal, a fact that network designers use to their advantage to help eliminate interference between radios. The under-seat AP design, believed to be first widely used by AT&T Park in San Francisco and then at a larger scale at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., was developed to help bring better signals to seats where overhang-mounted APs couldn’t deliver strong connectivity. Older concrete-bowl stadiums like Notre Dame’s also went with a proximate railing design for a similar lack of overhangs.

Though the Eagles’ IT team has repeatedly turned down interview requests from MSR since this summer, Danny Abelson, vice president connectivity for Panasonic Enterprise Solution Company, met with MSR last week to provide details of the deployment. Citing new, patented antenna technology developed specifically by Panasonic to solve the limitations of prior overhead gear, Abelson claims Panasonic can deliver a similar stadium experience for “two-thirds the cost” of an under-seat or railing-mount network design, with savings realized both in construction costs (since it is usually cheaper to install overhead-mounted equipment than under-seat or railing mounts due to drilling needed) and in the need for fewer actual APs, since Panasonic has four radios in its main Wi-Fi APs.

Eagles fans cheering their team to the Super Bowl. Credit: Hunter Martin, Eagles

Abelson, however, declined to provide the exact cost of the Panasonic network at Lincoln Financial Field, citing non-disclosure agreements. There are also more questions to be answered about a Panasonic deployment’s cost, including charges for management software and/or administration services. Currently, Abelson said, Panasonic includes the costs for management software and management personnel in its bids.

When it comes to how the Eagles found Panasonic, the team and the company already had an existing relationship, as Panasonic’s video-board division had previously supplied displays for the Linc. According to Abelson, Panasonic went through a performance test at several Eagles games last season, bringing in Wi-Fi gear to see if the new technology could provide coverage to areas where the Eagles said they had seen lower-quality coverage before. One of the forerunners in the NFL in bringing Wi-Fi to fans, the Eagles had previously used Extreme Networks Wi-Fi gear to build a fan-facing network in 2013. Though the Eagles would not comment about the selection process, after issuing an RFP this past offseason the team chose Panasonic for a new network, which Abelson said was deployed in three months during the football offseason.

Re-opening the debate for antenna placement?

Though Mobile Sports Report has not yet been able to get to Philadelphia to test the new network in a live game-day situation, if Panasonic’s new gear works as promises the company may find many potential interested customers, especially those who had shied away from deploying under-seat networks due to the construction issues or costs.

The Panasonic system may be of particular interest to indoor arenas, like hockey and basketball stadiums, where the gear could be potentially mounted in catwalk areas to cover seating. John Spade, CTO for the NHL’s Florida Panthers and BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., has tweeted favorably about a Panasonic deployment going in at the arena whose networks he oversees:

But even as the impressive 8.76 TB mark seen at the NFC Championship game now sits as the third-highest reported Wi-Fi data use event we’ve heard of (behind only the 10.1 TB of Wi-Fi seen at Super Bowl 50 and the 11.8 TB seen at Super Bowl 51), that number may fall a bit down the list if we ever get verified numbers for some network totals we’ve heard rumors about lately. (Or even any older ones! C’mon network teams: Check out the list below and let us know if we’ve missed any.)

So far this season, we haven’t gotten any reports of Wi-Fi usage out of the network team at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium (which recently hosted the college football playoff championship game), and we’ve only heard general talk about oversized playoff-game traffic at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, home of Sunday’s Super Bowl 52. Like Notre Dame Stadium, U.S. Bank Stadium uses a mostly railing-mounted AP deployment in its seating bowl; both networks were designed by AmpThink. We are also still waiting for reports from last week’s AFC Championship game at Gillette Stadium, where the previous non-Super Bowl top mark of 8.08 TB was set in September; and from any games this fall at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where the NFL’s biggest stadium has 2,567 Wi-Fi APs.

Will overhead still be able to keep up as demand for more bandwidth keeps growing? Will Panasonic’s claims of lower costs for equal performance hold up? At the very least, the performance in Philadelphia could re-open debate about whether or not you need to deploy APs closer to fans to provide a good Wi-Fi experience. If all goes well, the winners in renewed competition will be venues, teams, and ultimately, fans.

THE LATEST TOP 10 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
2. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
3. Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, NFC Championship Game, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.76 TB
4. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 8.08 TB
5. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
6. Southern California vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Oct. 21, 2017: 7.0 TB
7. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
8. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
9. Georgia vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Sept. 9, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.2 TB
10. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB

Patriots, Extreme claim 8 TB of Wi-Fi used during NFL opener

Credit: Patriots.com

It looks like those NFL stadium Wi-Fi upgrades over the past couple years are paying off, with big numbers starting to roll in as the 2017 season gets underway. Tops on the numbers list so far is a report from Extreme Networks claiming a total of 8.08 terabytes of traffic was seen on the Wi-Fi network at Gillette Stadium for the NFL season opener, a 42-27 win by the visiting Kansas City Chiefs over the New England Patriots on Sept. 7.

The Patriots, one of several teams to significantly upgrade their Wi-Fi system before last season, saw a 5.11 TB mark during last year’s AFC Championship game, which (briefly) made the unofficial top 5 single-day Wi-Fi events list we’ve been keeping at MSR. Since then we’ve heard about a 7.25 TB game at AT&T Stadium for the Packers-Cowboys playoff tilt, and more recently a 6.2 TB mark seen at Notre Dame, for its Sept. 9 game against Georgia.

The Patriots’ 8-plus number came from an impressive number of fans using the network — according to Extreme, there were 41,377 unique users (out of 65,878 in attendance) on the network that day, with a peak concurrent user number of 33,909. Extreme also said the network saw peak throughput of 11.1 Gbps. These numbers are closing in on Super Bowl territory, with Super Bowl LI’s 11.8 TB mark now clearly in jeopardy when the big game rolls back around in Feburary. We are also waiting to see what the numbers are like from Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which hosts the Falcons’ regular-season home opener this weekend against Green Bay. Though there are no official reports yet, we have heard rumors that the MBS network did very well in preseason, so we’re guessing the list below will get a number of resets this season.

Got any numbers we need to know about? Send ’em in!

THE LATEST TOP 9 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
2. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
3. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 8.08 TB
4. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
5. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
6. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
7. Georgia vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Sept. 9, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.2 TB
8. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB
9. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 22, 2017: Wi-Fi: 5.11 TB

NFL Wi-Fi update: AT&T Stadium adds 667 APs

A row shot of the under-seat APs at AT&T Stadium. Photo: Dallas Cowboys

With today’s main NFL season schedule already underway, here is a quick update on all the NFL stadium Wi-Fi updates we know about that are either finished or still under construction for the 2017 season:

— AT&T Stadium, already the location of the biggest (by number of APs) stadium network we know of, is in the process of adding another 667 APs, a project scheduled to be finished in the next few weeks. According to John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys Football Club, the new APs are all the Cisco 3800 two-radio models, and will be installed on the stadium’s 400-level seating area.

When done, AT&T Stadium will have 2,567 APs, with plans to add another 400 in the upcoming offseason. After that, said Winborn, AT&T Stadium will “be out of locations in the stadium to place additional APs without additional spectrum opening up.” (editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct an error in reporting that previously stated that 600 new APs had been installed.)

— In Atlanta, the fans are getting ready for the first regular-season game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which will have nearly 1,800 APs total, many of those under the seats in the bowl.

— As previously reported in MSR, Denver’s Sports Authority Field at Mile High is in the process of ripping and replacing its former Wi-Fi network, installing 1,470 new Cisco 3800s in a project scheduled for completion by late October/early November.

— In Philadephia, Lincoln Financial Field is in the process of switching from an Extreme Networks deployment to a new one using Wi-Fi gear from Panasonic. More details on this project are promised later this fall.

— In Seattle, the Seahawks’ IT team is adding additional APs to improve coverage in the four corners of the upper seating sections of CenturyLink Field, according to Chip Suttles, vice president of technology for the Seahawks. Suttles said a full offseason tuning assessment with gear provider Extreme Networks also saw a new channel plan put in place, and “multiple Wi-Fi antenna orientations to improve coverage.”

— Detroit’s Ford Field also got a Wi-Fi (and DAS) upgrade over the past offseason, a revamp that will now allow all visitors, and not just Verizon Wireless customers, to use the stadium Wi-Fi.

— Chicago Bears fans will finally have free Wi-Fi this season, after being forced to pay for access previously.

— Following the announcement that the Arizona Cardinals were switching from CDW to Cox Business as the exclusive technology provider for the University of Phoenix Stadium, the UoP Stadium network was set for some additional APs and some network tuning ahead of the NFL season, according to Mark Feller, vice president of technology for the Cardinals.

Anyone else we miss? Send us the info… and the speedtests!

AT&T Stadium sees 7.25 TB of Wi-Fi for Packers vs. Cowboys playoff game

The Dallas Cowboys before taking the field against the Green Bay Packers in a Jan. 15 playoff game. Credit: James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys before taking the field against the Green Bay Packers in a Jan. 15 playoff game. Credit: James D. Smith/Dallas Cowboys

Pro football’s biggest stadium had the biggest non-Super Bowl Wi-Fi traffic day we’ve heard of this season, as the Dallas Cowboys reported seeing 7.25 terabytes of Wi-Fi data on the AT&T Stadium network during the Packers’ thrilling 34-31 victory on Jan. 15.

John Winborn, chief information officer for the Dallas Cowboys, sent us the info on the stadium’s biggest Wi-Fi day ever, surpassing the previous record of 6.77 TB seen on the AT&T Stadium Wi-Fi network for WrestleMania 32 back on April 5, 2016. The new total for Wi-Fi was even set by fewer fans, with attendance for the Jan. 15 playoff game at 93,396, compared to the 101,763 at WrestleMania.

Though he didn’t provide an exact number, Winborn also said that the take rate of unique clients on the Wi-Fi network for the Packers game was 50 percent of attendees, roughly 46,700, easily one of the biggest numbers we’ve seen anywhere. During the Cowboys’ excellent regular season, Winborn said the average of Wi-Fi data used per game was 5.28 TB, an increase of 33 percent over the 2015 season.

UPDATE: The AT&T folks have provided the DAS stats for the same game, with an additional 3 TB of data used on the AT&T cellular networks inside the stadium. So we’re up to 10.25 TB for a non-Super Bowl game… doubt we will get any other carriers to add their totals but sounds to me like this is the biggest non-Super Bowl event out there in terms of total data.

Any other NFL teams (or college teams) out there with peak games and/or season averages, send them in! Let’s keep updating this list!

THE NEW TOP 7 FOR WI-FI

1. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
2. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
3. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
4. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
5. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB
6. Alabama vs. Texas A&M, Kyle Field, College Station, Texas, Oct. 17, 2015: Wi-Fi: 5.7 TB
7. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 22, 2017: Wi-Fi: 5.11 TB

Cowboys hit 2+ TB, Texas A&M sees 1.8+ TB in first AT&T DAS stats for 2016 football season

dx1With the first few football games of the season now under our belts, stats from stadium wireless networks are filtering in with a refrain we’ve heard before: Fan use of wireless data is still growing, with no top reached yet.

Thanks to our friends at AT&T we have the first set of cellular network stats in hand, which show a report of 2.273 terabytes of data used on the AT&T network at AT&T Stadium for the Cowboys’ home opener, a 20-19 loss to the New York Giants on Sept. 11. That same weekend the AT&T network at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas, home of the Texas A&M Aggies, saw 1.855 TB of data during Texas A&M’s home opener against UCLA, a 31-24 overtime win over the Bruins.

Remember these stats are for AT&T traffic only, and only for the AT&T network on the DAS installations in and around the stadiums. Any other wireless carriers out there who want to send us statistics, please do so… as well as team Wi-Fi network totals. Look for more reports soon! AT&T graphics below on the first week results. We figure you can figure out which stadiums they’re talking about by the town locations.

Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 11.21.50 AM

Screen Shot 2016-09-19 at 11.21.58 AM