Broncos fans get technology to help speed up concessions at Mile High

A fan uses the visual-recognition system to purchase concessions at Empower Field at Mile High earlier this fall. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

Can technology finally help improve one of the biggest pain points in the game-day experience, namely waiting in line for concessions? At the Denver Broncos’ Empower Field at Mile High, a number of new technology initiatives debuted this year, all designed to improve the fan experience around concession purchases by providing more choice and streamlined checkout procedures.

While there are no hard numbers yet on the experiments, a Mobile Sports Report visit to Mile High earlier this year saw heavy use of the new technologies, which mainly include touch-screen ordering and payment systems as well as an innovative visual-recognition device to tabulate items in grab-and-go scenarios. A few quick interviews with fans at the stands got mixed reactions on whether or not the new technology actually speeded up the processes, but some stopwatch clocking showed speedy checkouts, especially those using the visual-recognition technology, where items are placed on a scanner bed which then quickly recognizes and tabulates the total on an attached payment screen.

For those of us who are now (maybe unwillingly) becoming accustomed to checking out our own items at supermarket self-checkout terminals, the Broncos’ stands that utilize the visual-recognition devices (from a company called Mashgin) are far easier to use than trying to scan a barcode for each item. At Mile High, the scanners are the perfect endpoint for a series of stands called “Drink MKT,” which are basically spaces with coolers filled with multiple beverage choices, from bottled water through multiple types of beer and other alcoholic drinks, including $100 bottles of John Elway Cabernet. At those stands fans simply walk in, choose what they want from a cooler and queue up for the scanners. When items are placed on the scanner beds the system’s cameras detect the items and generate a total bill, which is paid for by credit card on an attached terminal. Human-staff intervention is only needed to check IDs and to help fans open up the beverages before they leave the stand.

Fans line up to order fried chicken via a digital-screen kiosk.

While one fully jammed Drink MKT stand on the main concourse level didn’t seem to be moving any more quickly than traditional concessions windows (“It’s not faster, but there are way more choices,” said one fan), on the top-level concourse a stream of fans grabbed beverages just after the game’s start, with each transaction taking only a minute or less from setting the items on the scanner to leaving the stand. “It’s fun!” said two fans leaving the Drink MKT stand on the top-level concourse. “And it’s way faster.”

The Mashgin scanners were also in use at another stand clearly designed to speed up the food-getting process, a walk-through type arrangement where fans could grab from a limited selection of food and beverage items (pizza, popcorn, hot dogs, plus beer and soft drinks) before paying at a Mashgin scanner. Again, the only human interaction from a staffing point was to check IDs, help customers with the payment system, and ensure all beverages were opened before the fans left the stands. Truly, the interaction that took the longest was the can opening process, which is tricky to do yourself if you are carrying several items (there are no bags to carry the concessions from the stands). The Mashgin systems are showing up in other sports venues, including this report of it being combined with the Clear system to speed up payments even more.

Display ordering and payment systems also emerge

Another self-service technology (which many have probably seen in fast-food restaurants or other venues like airports) in use at Mile High is the use of digital display screens to let fans order from on-screen menus and pay with a credit card at the same terminal. At Mile High, like other systems used at some stadiums and at many fast-food restaurants, the digital terminals spit out a paper slip with an order number that fans use to pick up their items at a separate window.

Fans with club-level seats can order drinks and food for delivery to their seats via the team app.

On the main lower-level concourse at Mile High, such a system was in heavy use at a fried-chicken food stand, with many fans clearly comfortable with the ordering, payment and pickup process. MSR saw some similar systems in use at Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ new home, on a recent visit there this fall.

The Broncos also have another type of digital-screen ordering system in one of their premium club areas, where fans can order items from several different “stands,” each with a different entree or dessert item. Again, a paper ticket is generated that the fans then take to the food-preparation stands to pick up their orders.

Club-level fans also have the opportunity at Mile High to order food and drink to be delivered to their seats, via the team app. The food ordering and delivery function is powered by Tap.in2, a company we’ve profiled before.

We’ll circle back with the Broncos after this season to try to get some stats on whether or not the new stands and technologies won over fans and improved the service, but it’s heartening to see stadiums and teams push the envelope a bit to help fans get back to their seats more quickly. More photos below!


A look at the entry to one of the Drink MKT stands

The grab-and-go format of the Drink MKT stands offers fans a lot of choice

Technology can help, but the just-before-kickoff crush will always produce a line

The order-and-pay kiosks at a fried chicken stand are familiar to anyone who’s done fast food recently


A club-level kiosk system allows fans to pick from several different food stands


Most kiosk systems seemed to have a good amount of customization available

The club-level stands offer flexible choices


The Mashgin checkout systems were also used at a grab-and-go food/beverage stand


Tailgating at Mile High can still be classy and old-school


In case you hadn’t heard, the place has a new name

Hard to beat a sunny Sunday at Mile High

Ohio State adds another top-5 Wi-Fi day; Nebraska, Mile High also add to list

Even in the middle of a game-long rainstorm, fans at Ohio Stadium for Ohio State’s 38-7 victory over visiting Wisconsin on Oct. 25 still used 17.0 terabytes of data on the stadium’s new Wi-Fi network, a total that is the fourth-highest number we know of in our ongoing unofficial tally of big stadium Wi-Fi events.

According to figures provided to us by Ohio State, there were 61,997 unique devices connected to the Wi-Fi network during the Wisconsin game, with a peak concurrent connection mark of 35,074. Though still one of the biggest Wi-Fi days ever, the Wisconsin numbers did not hit the record levels set earlier this fall when Michigan State played at Ohio Stadium and a record 25.6 TB of data was seen on the network.

Editor’s note: You can now read our Stadium Tech Report profile of the new Ohio State network instantly online, with no registration or email address needed! JUST CLICK RIGHT HERE and start reading our latest report today!

More Wi-Fi at Mile High, and Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium

The stadium now known as Empower Field at Mile High also saw some recent big Wi-Fi days, including a couple concerts and a couple Denver Broncos home games. According to statistics provided to us by Russ Trainor, senior vice president for IT for the Broncos, the new top mark at the venue came during a Garth Brooks concert on June 8, 2019, with 12.63 TB used (now good for 10th on the new version of the Wi-Fi list, below). The Garth Brooks show also produced a record number for unique connections at Mile High, with 48,442 devices on the network.

The recently refreshed Wi-Fi network at Mile High seems to be producing regular totals in the 8-9 TB range, as Trainor said several other events this year crested the 8 TB mark, including 8.98 TB for an Oct. 13 game against the Tennessee Titans; 8.47 TB for a Rolling Stones concert on Aug. 10; and 8.09 TB for a Sept. 15 game against the Chicago Bears. The Bears game saw a Mile High record set for most concurrent Wi-Fi connections, at 37,163, while the Stones concert saw the highest stadium throughput mark, at 22.5 Gbps. According to Trainor the 8+ TB average event data marks at Mile High are up from an average in the 6 TB range a year ago.

At Nebraska, whose network we profiled a year ago, a similar range of Wi-Fi traffic days has been seen at home games this fall, with a high-water mark of 11.2 TB seen in and around the stadium on Sept. 28, when ESPN’s College Gameday was in town for the Ohio State-Nebraska matchup. According to statistics provided to us by Dan Floyd, director of IT for Nebraska Athletics, and Andrew Becker, Nebraska venue technology specialist, Memorial Stadium also saw 9.2 TB for a Oct. 5 game with Northwestern, and 8.5 TB for a Sept. 14 game with Northern Illinois, and 8.3 TB for the Aug. 31 home opener against South Alabama.

For the Ohio State game, Nebraska said it saw a top peak concurrent connected user number of 38,062, out of 89,759 in attendance that day.

New list coming soon!

On a final note for this post, please enjoy the “final” version of our all-time Wi-Fi list below, in its current format. Stay tuned for a post (coming soon) explaining some new thinking we are going to put into place regarding venue Wi-Fi totals reporting, an idea that will try to encompass some of the great and varied feedback we’ve been getting all fall. In that post we will finally explain why the current list keeps expanding without a bottom… and what new figures we think may be more interesting than just total tonnage. Stay tuned!

THE MSR TOP 36 FOR WI-FI

1. Michigan State vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 5, 2019: Wi-Fi: 25.6 TB
2. Super Bowl 53, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 3, 2019: Wi-Fi: 24.05 TB
3. NCAA Men’s 2019 Final Four semifinals, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., April 6, 2019: Wi-Fi: 17.8 TB
4. Wisconsin vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 25, 2019: Wi-Fi: 17.0 TB
5. Super Bowl 52, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., Feb. 4, 2018: Wi-Fi: 16.31 TB
6. Miami (Ohio) vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 21, 2019: Wi-Fi: 13.7 TB
7. NCAA Men’s 2019 Final Four championship, U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minn., April 8, 2019: Wi-Fi: 13.4 TB
8. Florida Atlantic vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Aug. 31, 2019: Wi-Fi: 13.3 TB
9. Cincinnati vs. Ohio State, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, Sept. 7, 2019: Wi-Fi: 12.7 TB
10. Garth Brooks Stadium Tour, Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo., June 8, 2019: Wi-Fi: 12.63 TB
11. 2018 College Football Playoff Championship, Alabama vs. Georgia, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 8, 2018: Wi-Fi: 12.0 TB
12. Auburn vs. Florida, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla., Oct. 5, 2019: Wi-Fi: 11.82 TB
13. Super Bowl 51, NRG Stadium, Houston, Feb. 5, 2017: Wi-Fi: 11.8 TB
14. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 8, 2019: Wi-Fi: 11.58 TB
15. Ohio State vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Sept 28, 2019: Wi-Fi: 11.2 TB
16. Atlanta Falcons vs. Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Sept. 6, 2018: Wi-Fi: 10.86 TB
17. Super Bowl 50, Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016: Wi-Fi: 10.1 TB
18. Taylor Swift Reputation Tour, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., July 27, 2018: Wi-Fi: 9.76 TB
19. Northwestern vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 5, 2019: Wi-Fi: 9.2 TB
20. Tennessee Titans vs. Denver Broncos, Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo., Oct. 13, 2019: Wi-Fi: 8.98 TB
21. Minnesota Vikings vs. Philadelphia Eagles, NFC Championship Game, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.76 TB
22. Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New England Patriots, AFC Championship Game, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Jan. 21, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.53 TB
23. Northern Illinois vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Sept. 14, 2019: Wi-Fi: 8.5 TB
24. Rolling Stones No Filter Tour, Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo., Aug. 10, 2019: Wi-Fi: 8.47 TB
25. South Alabama vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Aug. 31, 2019: Wi-Fi: 8.3 TB
26. Taylor Swift Reputation Tour, Broncos Stadium at Mile High, May 25, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.1 TB
27. Chicago Bears vs. Denver Broncos, Empower Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo., Sept. 15, 2019: Wi-Fi: 8.09 TB
28. Kansas City Chiefs vs. New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass., Sept. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 8.08 TB
29. SEC Championship Game, Alabama vs. Georgia, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Ga., Dec. 1, 2018: Wi-Fi: 8.06 TB
30. Green Bay Packers vs. Dallas Cowboys, Divisional Playoffs, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, Jan. 15, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.25 TB
31. Stanford vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Sept. 29, 2018: 7.19 TB
32. (tie) Southern California vs. Notre Dame, Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind., Oct. 21, 2017: 7.0 TB
Arkansas State vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Sept 2, 2017: Wi-Fi: 7.0 TB
33. Tennessee vs. Florida, Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Fla., Sept. 21, 2019: Wi-Fi: 6.94 TB
34. WrestleMania 32, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas, April 3, 2016: Wi-Fi: 6.77 TB
35. Wisconsin vs. Nebraska, Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Neb., Oct. 7, 2017: Wi-Fi: 6.3 TB
36. Super Bowl 49, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz., Feb. 1, 2015: Wi-Fi: 6.23 TB