Belmont, Saratoga race tracks to get VenueNext app in 2017

Screenshot of what the Saratoga app might look like. Credit: VenueNext

Screenshot of what the Saratoga app might look like. Credit: VenueNext

Operators of the famed Belmont Park and Saratoga Race Course horse-racing tracks have signed a deal with VenueNext to bring that company’s mobile app platform to both venues in 2017, with features including online betting integrated into the mobile app.

In an announcement Monday, the New York Racing Association (NYRA) said it will use VenueNext’s platform and mobile app to provide a set of features to race-day fans including the ability to store digital tickets, to purchase food, beverage and merchandise and have those items delivered to seats, to have wayfinding maps to help fans find their way around the facilities, and to view live and archived content.

The VenueNext apps will also integrate the functionality of the NYRA Bets system into the app, so that fans can place wagers directly from their mobile devices, according to the companies. The VenueNext app will be available first at Belmont Park in the spring of 2017, followed by a summer rollout at Saratoga, the companies said.

What will be interesting to watch is whether or not either track updates its connectivity ahead of the app deployment; according to the Belmont website, that track does have free fan-facing Wi-Fi, but only in the clubhouse areas with limited access in the grandstands. The Saratoga list of amenities for fans does not include any Wi-Fi information.

“VenueNext has a proven track record for delivering innovative fan experiences to sporting venues across the country and we’re proud to partner with them,” said NYRA President & CEO Chris Kay, in a prepared statement. “This partnership is yet another step in our efforts to continuously improve the guest experience through the use of technology. By leveraging VenueNext at Belmont and Saratoga Race Tracks, integrating our new NYRA Bets wagering platform and our new HD Video mobile app, NYRA will create a new standard for the horseracing industry and provide the New York fan base that is so passionate about Belmont and Saratoga the very best experiences possible.”

VenueNext, the stadium app development company created to build the stadium app platform for the San Francisco’s Levi’s Stadium, now has seven announced customers for its various stadium-app and stadium-app management systems, including the Orlando Magic, the New York Yankees, the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings, and Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby. VenueNext also provided the stadium app for the recent Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium.

Churchill Downs taps Mobilitie for DAS upgrade ahead of Kentucky Derby

horseTexting and calling on Kentucky Derby day should work a lot better for fans at the legendary Churchill Downs racetrack this weekend, thanks to a recent doubling of the facility’s DAS infrastructure.

According to infrastructure deployer Mobilitie, the 140th running of the Derby and other associated races is expected to attract more than 260,000 fans to the Louisville, Ky., home of perhaps the world’s most famous thoroughbred event. With coverage improvements that Mobilitie said effectively doubles the capacity of the previous distributed antenna system (DAS) installment, fans should have better cellular coverage in more areas, including the track’s parking lot and other outside areas.

A Mobilitie press release said that the upgraded DAS will cover all six levels and basement in the Churchill Downs main building, and will also cover all of the grandstands, the parking areas and the newly installed Grandstand Terrace. In addition, Mobilitie said new coverage will also support temporary hospitality suites as well as the entire infield area. Mobilitie said the DAS system is one of the largest in the country, with more than 253 antennas and over 1 million feet of fiber optic cable installed throughout the venue. So far, AT&T and Verizon Wireless have signed on to use the DAS, which means that for this year at least most wireless customers will have access to improved connectivity. According to Mobilitie, both carriers’ 4G LTE signals will be supported by the neutral DAS.

FastBet app screen shot

FastBet app screen shot

“Since 2003, Churchill Downs has invested $160 million into improving the onsite customer experience for guests attending the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby,” said Ryan Jordan, general manager of Churchill Downs, in a prepared statement. “A major part of the live event experience is ensuring that fans maintain connectivity to their social networks. As a result of the upgrades that Mobilitie made this year, our guests with smartphone service from participating carriers will be able to share those memorable experiences as they happen live with their entire network.”

Fans at the race can also use smartphones to bet on the races via their mobile devices, using the track’s Wi-Fi network that covers a large segment of the main building’s stands and suites. According to the Churchill Downs website, the FastBet Mobile system only works on the track’s Wi-Fi network, most likely due to security and billing requirements. A map shows which areas of the stands are covered by Wi-Fi.