Yankee Stadium offers food ordering and delivery via VenueNext app

Home screen for VenueNext app for Yankee Stadium. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Home screen for VenueNext app for Yankee Stadium. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Fans in some areas of Yankee Stadium this year can now order food and beverages for in-seat delivery, thanks to a new stadium app developed with technology from VenueNext, the app developer behind the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium app.

Though the app isn’t part of the Major League Baseball official and approved game-day and stadium apps, it does offer most of the bells and whistles VenueNext developed for the Levi’s Stadium app, including digital ticketing, live wayfinding maps and public transit information. According to John Paul, the CEO of VenueNext, the food ordering option is now available to approximately 10,000 seats in the 54,251-seat Yankee Stadium, home of the New York Yankees and also the home to Major League Soccer’s New York City Football Club, which also uses the new app.

The VenueNext app comes courtesy of a deal struck last year between Legends Hospitality and VenueNext, to use VenueNext app technology at Yankee Stadium and at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. The Yankee Stadium app from Legends is the third major-league sport to use VenueNext technology to support in-seat food and beverage delivery, following the Niners’ app at Levi’s Stadium and an app for the Orlando Magic at Amway Center that debuted during the present NBA season.

App page showing in-seat food ordering and delivery option

App page showing in-seat food ordering and delivery option

In a phone interview with VenueNext’s Paul, he said that in Orlando the Magic started out with limited in-seat delivery, ramping up to offering it in the full lower bowl of Amway Center by the end of the regular season. According to Paul, the Yankees are using Aruba beacons to facilitate the wayfinding feature of the VenueNext app maps, and are using VenueNext’s Kezar ticket scanners to support digital ticketing. The Yankee Stadium app, however, does not yet support the ability to order food for express pickup at concession stands, Paul said.

No official word on Wi-Fi or MLBAM apps

The emergence of a VenueNext app that delivers capabilities not found in the so-called Official Yankee Stadium App raises some questions about whether or not the Yankees are playing ball with Major League Baseball Advanced Media’s strategy of having one single app for every MLB ballpark. MLB’s Ballpark app, for example, at Yankee Stadium offers “mobile check-in, social media, offers, rewards and exclusive content,” according to MLB. That’s a little bit different than the version of At Bat offered for the San Francisco Giants, which offers mobile ticketing support, seat upgrade options, and mobile food ordering. Other versions of Ballpark, for example for the Chicago Cubs and the Washington Nationals, offer fewer options. But as far as we know, there are no other MLB teams with a companion app like the VenueNext app for Yankee Stadium.

For both the Yankees and the Giants and all other teams, the MLB’s At Bat app offers live MLB content for a fee.

Yankee Stadium stadium map in the app

Yankee Stadium stadium map in the app

There is also no link to the new VenueNext app from the Yankees’ team website, and the VenueNext app does not contain any live content or replay options, features found on both the Niners’ and Magic’s apps from VenueNext. The Yankees have not yet replied to requests for information about the app and whether or not there is any public-facing Wi-Fi yet in Yankee Stadium.

Though MLBAM spent some $300 million last year to bring Wi-Fi and cellular DAS deployments to all MLB stadiums, Yankee Stadium was never confirmed to have had public Wi-Fi installed. Repeated requests to MLBAM asking about the Wi-Fi situation at Yankee Stadium have also not been returned.

VenueNext app already paying off for Orlando Magic

Screenshot of new Orlando Magic stadium app built by VenueNext

Screenshot of new Orlando Magic stadium app built by VenueNext

The NBA’s Orlando Magic, the first customer for VenueNext outside of Levi’s Stadium, is already seeing a revenue-generating return on its choice, according to figures released by the team and VenueNext.

New this year for fans at the Magic’s stadium, the 20,000-seat, Wi-Fi equipped Amway Center, the VenueNext-designed app is already generating new direct revenue of $500,000 through in-app advertisement sales, while also being used by fans to order food and drinks that can either be picked up at an express window, or for certain sections of the stadium, delivered to the seat.

With the NBA season just past the halfway point, VenueNext and the Magic said that the number of fans attending games in Orlando using the app on a monthly average is showing an almost 96 percent increase from last year and the team’s previous app. So far this year 30 percent of attendees have used the app, a figure at the high end of team-app usage.

Perhaps most interesting from a marketing standpoint is the stat claiming that 80 percent of season-ticket holders have used the app to gain entry to the arena and to manage their tickets, activity that can be mined by the team for marketing info. According to the team and VenueNext, mobile entry to the stadium has reached 26 percent of all fans, an increase of 200 percent over figures from last season.

Fast deliveries, increased ticket sales

Though neither the team nor VenueNext would provide any stats for average food orders placed per game or how many have been placed so far this year, they did say that deliveries — available to just a part of the stadium right now — are taking an average of 5 minutes and 26 seconds to complete. The ability to use the app to order in-seat delivery of food, drink and merchandise is one of the hallmarks of the VenueNext app used at Levi’s Stadium for San Francisco 49ers home games. At the recent Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium, the app allowed fans to order only drinks for delivery and food for express pickup; fans at the Super Bowl placed 3,284 food and beverage orders through the app, a stadium record.

Another screen view of the new Orlando Magic stadium app

Another screen view of the new Orlando Magic stadium app

The team also said that fans have been using the app to purchase more of the “Fast Break Pass” products that provide discounts for multiple-game purchases that aren’t full season tickets. According to a blog post by Orlando Magic CEO on the VenueNext website, the app has allowed the team to greatly expand its flexible-pass offerings:

Fast Break Pass sales are up 233% from last season, in part, because the app has given the Magic the ability to expand to six different Fast Break Pass products that span the entire course of a season, providing a unique product for an untapped market. The app also includes added location identifiers so Fast Break Pass holders can receive their seat assignments now once they are within a mile of the arena (previously it wasn’t assigned until they entered the building).

On the sponsorship side, the Magic said it sold the approximately $500,000 of in-app advertising to fantasy gambling outlet FanDuel and to Sun Pass, which we think is a Florida electronic tollroad payment operation. At Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers sold a similar in-app advertising package to eSurance for the 2014 season, producing $750,000 in revenue. The Magic app has a direct link to a FanDuel game.

The Orlando figures are a good selling point for VenueNext, which is still somewhat of a newcomer in the team and stadium app business, trailing leaders like YinzCam, which recently struck a deal to re-do 22 of the NBA team apps. While its performance at Levi’s Stadium and now at Orlando are significant, VenueNext recently fell short of its own publicly announced goal to sign up 30 new customers before the end of 2015, something the company announced when it revealed its $9 million funding round last year.

While some of those new clients may be signed but not yet ready to announce, VenueNext has only announced two other new clients besides Orlando, the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys. Given that one of the investors in VenueNext was concert promoter Live Nation, it’s a good bet that some of the new clients may be concert arenas, and not just more sports stadiums.

NBA’s Orlando Magic pick VenueNext for new stadium app

Screenshot of new Orlando Magic stadium app built by VenueNext

Screenshot of new Orlando Magic stadium app built by VenueNext

The Orlando Magic and VenueNext are working together to produce a new stadium app for the NBA team, one that will support limited in-seat delivery of food, beverage and merchandise, as well as expanded digital ticketing options and even an in-game virtual betting feature.

Confirming reports from earlier this year, the VenueNext-powered app will be soft-launched during the NBA preseason and ready to go when games count, according to press releases from the team and from VenueNext. The deal with the Magic is the first confirmed VenueNext customer other than the San Francisco 49ers, whose owners helped launch VenueNext in part to build the app for Levi’s Stadium.

Like the Levi’s Stadium app, the Orlando Magic’s new app for the 20,000-seat Amway Center will support multiple game-day fan service functions, including the ability to use a mobile device to store digital tickets, and to pay for other ticketing functions like seat upgrades and parking passes. But the ability to order food, beverage and merchandise to be delivered to the seat will initially be limited to just 1,500 Amway Center fans in select premium seating areas, according to VenueNext. At Levi’s Stadium, all fans in the 69,500-seat venue can order food, beverage and merchandise for delivery via the app.

The app will also support instant replay services, powered by the NBA’s content feed, according to VenueNext. Like last year at Levi’s Stadium, fans in Orlando can expect features to be rolled out as the season progresses. Screenshots of the app provided by VenueNext also show the ability to pre-order concessions to be picked up at express windows, but there was no information about how many fans would be able to use this service.

Another screen view of the proposed new Orlando Magic stadium app

Another screen view of the proposed new Orlando Magic stadium app

Perhaps the most intriguing new twist to the VenueNext platform for Orlando is something the team is calling a “gaming feature,” which is essentially the ability for fans to bet on the game to earn loyalty points, called “Magic Money.” Though it’s not cash, the Magic Money can be exchanged for things like seat upgrades or food and beverage, the team said.

This feature is supported by daily fantasy betting service FanDuel, which had previously been a partner of the Magic and is now apparently the title sponsor of the new app. No details of the gaming feature were announced other than a few lines in a blog post from Magic CEO Alex Martins that said:

Fans will be able to play along with the game based on the stats and plays that are happening in front of them and earn points into their Magic Money marketplace account. Anyone in the arena will be able to play.

Earlier this year VenueNext CEO John Paul said that the firm would announce 30 new customers before the end of the calendar year, a count that is now down to 29. It will be interesting to see if any teams that are currently using another app platform, like the content-focused YinzCam apps, add or change to the VenueNext platform, which is solidly focused on fan services. In his blog post, Magic CEO Martins said he was confident the VenueNext app would improve the already-leading Amway Center fan experience:

During the upcoming season, our fans will be able to interact in so many more ways than in the more static fashion they’ve experienced in the past. Overall, most sports team apps are focused on content, which is one dimensional. Now, through this brand new experience, NBA fans for the first time will have a more dynamic and comprehensive experience.

Is Orlando’s Amway Center the next venue for VenueNext?

Screen shot from VenueNext's Levi's Stadium app

Screen shot from VenueNext’s Levi’s Stadium app

Nobody’s talking officially, but a well-sourced news item today said that the Orlando Magic is seriously kicking the tires on VenueNext’s mobile stadium-app solution, as a possible addition to the in-stadium technology package already in use at the team’s home, the Amway Center.

According to Don Muret’s “Breaking Ground” column in today’s Sports Business Journal (subscription required to view), Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins said the team is “in talks” with VenueNext to “upgrade mobile technology” at Amway Center for next season. While the report seems more than a little bit unclear on what exactly VenueNext does — it develops and deploys mobile applications, not Wi-Fi gear — the report did say that Magic officials and representatives from the Orlando concessionaire visited VenueNext at Levi’s Stadium for the recent Stadium Series hockey game.

If the report ends up becoming fact, it would represent the first venue outside of Levi’s Stadium to use VenueNext’s stadium-specific mobile application software. VenueNext, which said publicly that it is seeking multiple new customers for its software, hosted a steady parade of prospective customers during the football season at Levi’s Stadium this past fall.

The SBJ report also seems to think that VenueNext technology would somehow replace the existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, which simply doesn’t make any sense. Our guess is that the Orlando team might look to add VenueNext’s ability to do things like instant replays and food ordering, which are fairly unique in the stadium app marketplace.

Jeff Lutes, the Orlando Magic’s vice president of technology, said in an email that “With respect to the article in the SBJ, the Orlando Magic are performing due diligence around the VenueNext mobile application. This does not impact nor replace the AmpThink portal for Wi-Fi registration and on-boarding.” Lutes also said that the stadium’s Cisco-based Wi-Fi network gear would not be affected by any new app. Louise Callagy, VenueNext vice president of marketing, said the company had no comment on the SBJ report.

Stadium Tech Report: Orlando Magic will use Wi-Fi to improve connections with fans

Amway Center prior to NBA opening night, 2013-14 season. Credit: Orlando Magic

Amway Center prior to NBA opening night, 2013-14 season. Credit: Orlando Magic

Here’s how fast things have moved in the world of sports fans using mobile devices: When the Orlando Magic’s Amway Center opened in 2010, it was considered a state of the art facility, with sustainable design and lots of creature comforts like bigger seats and 42-foot high main video screens on its center scoreboard. But for the new smartphones fans were starting to bring to games, there was no Wi-Fi network. So, like at many new arenas, the Amway Center tech team went back to the drawing board, to figure out how to best add the connectivity that is in demand at large public venues everywhere.

“When the Amway Center opened it was one of the most technically advanced buildings in the world,” said Jack Elkins, business innovations manager for the Orlando Magic, in a recent phone interview. Though the arena had Wi-Fi connectivity for luxury suites and for media, and a neutral-host DAS, there wasn’t a high-bandwith Wi-Fi network to service the balance of attendees at the 20,000-seat facility.

“At the time, public Wi-Fi for stadiums wasn’t [economically] viable,” Elkins said. But like smartphone design, Wi-Fi infrastructure equipment got cheaper, better and faster, and the arena team started making plans to deploy a network as quickly as possible, with an important caveat: They wanted to own the network themselves, to better take advantage of its ability to collect and share information with the fans who would be using it.

Amway Center outside shot. Credit: Amway Center

Amway Center outside shot. Credit: Amway Center

Owning your own Wi-Fi network

“We wanted to be one of the first teams [to put in Wi-Fi],” and by the 2012-13 season, the deployment was “financially palatable” to the building’s owner and operator, the central Florida city of Orlando. According to Elkins the Magic teamed with wireless infrastructure specialist AmpThink to help design and deploy the network, which the team wanted to own and operate instead of merely allowing a cellular carrier or another third party to run it.

“When we went to put in Wi-Fi we saw it as a capital investment — we wanted to own the network,” Elkins said. Jeff Lutes, vice president of technology for the Magic who also participated in the recent phone interview, said the team entered into a “unique relationship” with AmpThink, basically “giving them the arena as a testbed for new technology work.” What was the Magic’s overall goal? “Getting better analytics out of Wi-Fi,” Lutes said.

First came the difficult procedure of ripping into those brand new stadium walls to add technology, which included all the Wi-Fi access points and infrastructure.

“We had just opened this new and gorgeous building, and had to find ways to put up a Wi-Fi network incorporating antennas the size of 17-inch monitors in as an aesthetically pleasing way as possible,” said Elkins, expressing a frustration no doubt felt in many other existing facilities who are adding new stadium technology. “That was a very difficult thing for our venue.”

A strong partner means a deeper technical bench

On the technical side, the Magic’s tech team was able to rely on the bench strength of partners like AmpThink and Cisco, who made sure the deployment was forward-thinking enough to embrace the latest technologies, like the newer 5 GHz channels for Wi-Fi connectivity.

Orlando Magic in action at Amway Center. Credit: Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic in action at Amway Center. Credit: Orlando Magic

“The NBA is telling teams they’ll need to upgrade [networks] every 2 years but we won’t have to,” Elkins said. “Thanks to the foresight of Cisco and AmpThink, we have clients on both radios [2.4 GHz and 5 GHz] right now and as fans get newer devices they’ll be able to go to 5 GHz without us doing anything new.”

The fewer walls torn apart, the better.

“We had limited internal staff, many of whom needed to stay focused on day to day issues,” Elkins said. “AmpThink opened the door to keep us forward thinking.”

So far, Lutes said the Magic sees an average of about 2,700 fans using the Wi-Fi network during NBA games. Concerts usually see a higher use rate, something that also happens during “big” games — like when former Magic star Dwight Howard returned to Orlando a year ago while playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. According to Lutes, the network saw 4,000 users on the night Howard returned.

App rollout and future connectivity goes both ways

Part of the future of the team’s extended connectivity with fans is just getting underway, with the rollout of an official in-stadium app. And when fans access the network for the first time, they are presented with a registration page that gives the team the ability to fine tune its marketing and outreach messaging, a key part of its overall strategy going forward.

“Fans have to opt in [to the marketing program] and it’s very valuable for us if they do,” Lutes said.

In addition to Magic games, the Amway Center also has concerts and minor league hockey games, averaging about 150 events during a calendar year. Since the city attracts tourists from all over the world for conventions and its theme parks, Lutes said the arena also attracts an interesting out-of-town crowd who may be taking in an NBA game during their visit to the city. So it’s important for the team and city ownership to know as much as possible about who is coming through the arena doors.

With the team’s analytics implementation, the Magic can tailor marketing messages for specific types of fans. Though people might worry about getting a bunch of spammy email if they opt in, Lutes said the team’s system works in the opposite manner.

“Our business analytics group can quickly tell if a marketing campaign is effective, and if it’s not we shut it down,” Lutes said. “We don’t blast a lot of messages. It’s less intrusive and more effective.”

And it’s all based on data accumulated via the network the Magic made sure it owned.

“We wouldn’t have access to this type of information if we didn’t own the Wi-Fi network,” Lutes said. “It sets the stage for more personalized messages down the road.”