Indiana Pacers upgrade Wi-Fi at Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers. Credit all photos: Frank McGrath/Indiana Pacers

Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers. Credit all photos: Frank McGrath/Indiana Pacers

Whenever you undertake a Wi-Fi retrofit project, one thing is for certain: You can always expect surprises along the way.

For the Indiana Pacers, the biggest surprise in their recent renovation of the Wi-Fi network at Bankers Life Fieldhouse was finding out that their venue already had holes drilled in the concrete under the seats, greatly simplifying (and reducing the cost) of the mainly under-seat deployment that just went live in December.

The new 400-plus AP network, using gear from Ruckus, replaces one of the NBA’s first in-stadium Wi-Fi networks, one built and run by SignalShare using gear from Xirrus. With SignalShare now in bankruptcy and facing legal charges of fraudulent behavior, the Pacers went a different route for their new network, which is part of a plan to bring more digital-based fan services to the 17-year-old venue in downtown Indianapolis, which seats roughly 18,000 for basketball games.

According to Kevin Naylor, vice president of information technology, Pacers Sports and Entertainment, that plan got an unexpected (and welcome) boost when the Pacers’ IT team looked and found pre-drilled holes underneath many of the seats, covered up with temporary aluminum plates. With Ruckus able to use the pre-drilled holes for its under-seat Wi-Fi design, the Pacers were able to save “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in deployment costs, Naylor said.

A new digital plan for fans

Editor’s note: This profile is from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, the ONLY in-depth publication created specifically for the stadium technology professional and the stadium technology marketplace. Read about the Sacramento Kings’ new Golden 1 Center and the new Wi-Fi network for the Super Bowl in our report, which is available now for FREE DOWNLOAD from our site!

Leading the venue’s new digital direction is Ed Frederici, chief technology officer, Pacers Sports and Entertainment, who joined the organization in the fall of 2015, after spending almost 6 years as the CTO of ExactTarget, a marketing automation provider that was aquired by Salesforce in 2013.

Though he came into the job “relatively ignorant of sports,” Frederici said he saw “a really interesting problem to solve” revolving around the ongoing evolution of the live-event fan, and who the new attendee was. With a plan to help drive the fan engagement through technology, Frederici, Naylor and the Pacers’ organization began a thorough assessment of Wi-Fi gear providers as part of their plan to bring a new network to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, replacing one that didn’t stand up to current use patterns.

“The old network tapped out when it got to about 3,000 [concurrent] users,” Frederici said.

Pacers director of IT Kevin Naylor shows off a new under-seat Wi-Fi AP

Pacers director of IT Kevin Naylor shows off a new under-seat Wi-Fi AP

According to Frederici, the Pacers looked at “all the major providers” of Wi-Fi gear, testing implementations live by putting gear into mobile merchandise-selling stands in use on the stadium concourses. The final decision, Frederici said, came down to a battle between Ruckus and Xirrus, with Ruckus the final winner.

Under seat the best option

According to Bart Giordano, vice president for business development and strategic partnerships, for Brocade’s Ruckus business unit, going under-seat with Wi-Fi seems to be the direction large public venues are all headed in.

“It [under seat deployment] is sort of standard now,” said Giordano. “You really need to have users close to the APs, and it’s hard to achieve that with overhead.”

With just over 430 APs in the new network, Frederici was worrying about the drilling costs — until it turned out that most of the drilling had already been done, apparently as part of the arena’s original electrical configuration.

“Seventeen years ago, cables were much thinner, and it looks like [the holes] were cored for electrical,” Frederici said. “But it worked out fabulously.”

And like several other venues have done recently, the Pacers have decided to scrap support for fan-facing services on the 2.4 GHz spectrum, which makes administration of the fan Wi-Fi network easier and cheaper. The team will still keep some 2.4 GHz connections for back of house use.

With 2.4 GHz, Naylor said, “the noise level just got really bad in the lower bowl. It’s much easier to go to [only] 5 GHz. Every phone made now has 5 GHz.” For the older phones, Naylor said, the arena’s neutral-host DAS run by ExteNet Systems can provide connectivity, with AT&T and Verizon Wireless already on the system with plans to add more carriers in 2017.

While the Pacers currently have a basic YinzCam-based game-day app, Frederici is looking forward to more services in the future, including the possibility of having amenities like live parking and traffic information available via the app, as well as blue-dot wayfinding to the seat. For this year, the Pacers have already added concession and restroom wait time alerts to the app, the first step in a planned process of greater digital engagement.

“We want to own the experience from your driveway to the stadium, then back home,” Frederici said. Part of the new network deal includes analytics software services from Ruckus partner Purple, which helps teams mine data from fan interaction with the Wi-Fi network.

“We’re excited to see what kind of data we can pull from them [Purple],” Naylor said.

New Report: First look at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center

q4 thumbMOBILE SPORTS REPORT is pleased to announce the Winter 2016-2017 issue of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series, with a first look at the pervasive stadium technology built into the Sacramento Kings’ new home, the Golden 1 Center.

Also in our latest in-depth publication created specifically for the stadium technology professional and the stadium technology marketplace is a profile of a new Wi-Fi deployment at the Indiana Pacers’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse, and a profile of new Wi-Fi and DAS networks deployed at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium. We also provide an update on how the new Wi-Fi network at Houston’s NRG Stadium is getting ready for the upcoming Super Bowl LI.

Renting a Wi-Fi network?

In addition to our historical in-depth profiles of successful stadium technology deployments, our fourth issue for 2016 has additional news and analysis, including a look at whether or not stadiums will soon be able to lease their Wi-Fi networks. Download your FREE copy today!

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, which for this issue include Mobilitie, Crown Castle, SOLiD, CommScope, JMA Wireless, Corning, Samsung Business, Xirrus, Huber+Suhner, ExteNet Systems, and Extreme Networks. Their generous sponsorship makes it possible for us to offer this content free of charge to our readers. We’d also like to thank you for your interest and support.

As always, we are here to hear what you have to say: Send me an email to kaps@mobilesportsreport.com and let us know what you think of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series.

Pacers get new Wi-Fi network from Ruckus to replace SignalShare

Screen Shot 2016-10-24 at 1.15.36 PMThe Indiana Pacers have signed a 3-year deal with Ruckus Wireless and Wi-Fi analytics and deployment firm Purple to put a new Wi-Fi network into Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the home of both the NBA’s Pacers and the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.

The new network, which the firms said would use 437 Ruckus Wi-Fi APs, will replace a Wi-Fi network installed at Bankers Life Fieldhouse by SignalShare, a Wi-Fi deployment firm that recently went bankrupt in the middle of legal issues that alleged fraudulent practices. According to Ruckus, the new network should be live by early December; stay tuned for a more thorough profile of the new deployment.

So far, all of the teams that we’ve contacted who were caught up in the SignalShare snafu (under which some of the network leases were being offered for auction before the SignalShare bankruptcy put a halt to things) seem to be coming out of the mess OK. The Jacksonville Jaguars have a new manager for their Wi-Fi network, and the Pacers will have a new Ruckus-gear network.

It’s still a little unclear as to what is happening at the Golden State Warriors’ Oracle Arena, but press representatives there said the building will have an Extreme Networks Wi-Fi deployment up and running for this season; previously, SignalShare had run the network using Extreme gear so our best guess is that Extreme somehow took over the SignalShare lease. Neither the Warriors nor Extreme would comment on any SignalShare matters.

In Indianapolis, the press release said that Purple, previously known as Purple WiFi (a “cloud-based marketing and analytics WiFi software company,” according to the firm), will be providing analytics from the Wi-Fi network to the Pacers. Terms of the deal were not diclosed, so it is unknown if Purple is paying for the Wi-Fi gear and making money off analytics and advertising sales; again, stay tuned for more details when we speak to the Pacers IT team in more detail.