Niners, SAP announce stadium-operations management application

A sample screen shot from the new Executive Huddle stadium operations management platform, developed by SAP for the San Francisco 49ers. Credit: San Francisco 49ers (click on any photo for a larger image)

A desire by the San Francisco 49ers to see stadium operations information in real time has become a real product, with today’s announcement of Executive Huddle, a stadium operations management application developed for the Niners by SAP.

In use at the Niners’ Levi’s Stadium since the start of the current football season, Executive Huddle brings transaction information from nine different stadium operations systems, including parking, concessions, retail sales, weather and fan opinions into a visual output that allows team executives to make real-time decisions on how to fix problems or otherwise enhance the game-day experience.

Demonstrated at Sunday’s home game against the Los Angeles Rams, the software not only reports raw data like concession sales or parking lot entries, but also provides a layer of instant feedback to let team executives make immediate changes to operations if necessary. The cloud-based application, developed by SAP and Nimbl, is currently only in use at one upper-level suite at Levi’s Stadium, where the output runs during Niners’ game days on several video screens. SAP, however, plans to make the system available to other teams in the future, according to SAP executives at Sunday’s demonstration.

Fixing issues in real time

Al Guido, president of the 49ers, said Executive Huddle was the end product of a desire of his to be able to fix any game-day experiences on the day of the game, instead of in the days or weeks after. According to Guido, the Niners have been passionate about collecting fan-experience data since Levi’s Stadium opened in 2014. But in the past, the compilation of game-day data usually wasn’t complete until a day or two after each event, meaning any issues exposed were only learned lessons that needed to wait until the next games to be fixed.

Executives huddle: from left, SAP’s Mark Lehew, Niners’ Moon Javaid, SAP’s Mike Flannagan and Niners president Al Guido talk about the Executive Huddle system at a Sunday press event at Levi’s Stadium. Credit: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Things like slower sales at concession stands, or issues with parking-lot directions, Guido said, wouldn’t be known as they were happening, something he wanted to change.

“I really wanted to be able to act on it [the operations data] in real time, instead of waiting until the Wednesday after a Sunday game,” Guido said.

Now, with Executive Huddle, the Niners’ operations team can sit in a single room and watch as operations events take place, and can make in-game moves to fix things, like calling on the radio to a parking lot to tell gate operators of traffic issues.

“It’s like having an air traffic control system,” said Mark Lehew, global vice president for sports and entertainment industry solutions at SAP. Lehew said SAP worked with the Niners’ list of operations vendors, including Ticketmaster, ParkHub, caterer Levy and point-of-sale technology provider Micros to provide back-end application links so that Executive Huddle could draw information from each separate system into the uber-operations view that Executive Huddle provides. According to SAP, Executive Huddle is based on SAP’s Leonardo and Analytics platform.

The manager of managers

Though the system doesn’t currently monitor some other key stadium operations information, like performance of the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network, Michael Pytel, chief innovation officer for Nimbl, said the system could conceivably add “any information we can get from an API.”

The Levi’s Stadium suite where the Niners monitor Executive Huddle information. Credit: San Francisco 49ers

Moon Javaid, the Niners’ vice president of strategy and analytics, said the continued robust performance of the stadium’s wireless networks make them a lower-priority need for the kind of oversight Executive Huddle provides.

Javaid, the quarterback of the program’s development from the Niners’ side of the equation, noted that part of its power comes not just from surfacing the data, but also from providing some instant intuitive markers — like red for declining metrics and green for positive — and the ability to compare current data to those from other events so that data could not just be seen but also understood, within seconds.

And while SAP plans to make Executive Huddle available to other teams, it’s clear that the program — as well as education and training for the decision-making staff who will use it — will need different care and feeding for each stadium that might want to use it. But SAP’s Lehew noted that being able to provide real-time data in an exposed fashion was becoming table stakes for operations providers, who would have to move past old ways of doing things if they wanted to be a part of the next generation of stadium service providers.

Pepsi Center partners with ParkHub for digital parking experience

Denver's Pepsi Center in hockey configuration. Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Denver’s Pepsi Center in hockey configuration. Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Fans coming to Denver’s Pepsi Center this fall will be able to prepurchase parking tickets and get mobile-device directions to their reserved spot, as part of a wide-ranging digital parking system from stadium parking technology startup ParkHub.

In a release today, Kroenke Sports and Entertainment (KSE) — owners of the Pepsi Center as well as the main tenants, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche — said it will use “all of ParkHub’s parking solutions” to help power a list of features that include pre-purchasing capabilities, the ability to take cash and credit card payment options for parking at the gate, real-time views of parking spot availability, and turn by turn directions to the lot locations. Fans will be able to access the parking options via a responsive website optimized for mobile scheduled to debut this fall, according to ParkHub.

(Now that MSR is local to the area we’re looking forward to seeing the app in action, if only because the curved streets in the vicinity of the Pepsi Center have always made parking downtown an adventure for us!)

According to the Dallas-based ParkHub, which is adding rapidly to its list of current customers, the KSE deal is the first time ParkHub will “white label” its entire suite of products, which will be offered from the Pepsi Center and not directly from ParkHub.

Dashboard view of ParkHub's admin program. Credit: ParkHub

Dashboard view of ParkHub’s admin program. Credit: ParkHub

Included on the back end of ParkHub’s system is the ability to administer, approve and analyze all parking activities from a dashboard view. According to ParkHub, parking information is available in real time, allowing venues to fine-tune things like lot availability and direction of traffic as cars arrive at the stadium.

“When I think about the success of an event, the primary goal is to expedite a better experience of getting people parked and in their seats in the least frustrating way as possible,” said Scott Beekhuizen, senior director of events operations for KSE, in a prepared statement. “Not only did we add a reliable pre-purchasing platform, but now all of our fans can use credit cards to pay at the gate. I know they are going to love that.”

Fans at Pepsi Center events this fall will also be able to connect to the Internet via high-speed Wi-Fi from Avaya that was recently installed at the venue.

Stadium parking technology moves to front of line with ParkHub-VenueNext partner deal

ParkHub CEO George Baker Sr. Photo: ParkHub Instagram page

ParkHub CEO George Baker Sr. Photo: ParkHub Instagram page

The oft-mentioned idea of using wireless technology to make event parking simpler and more efficient is becoming more of a reality these days, especially after the announcement this week of a partnership between stadium-app developer VenueNext and parking-management system concern ParkHub, which teamed together for parking services at Super Bowl 50.

Though the two companies didn’t announce any new stadium deals other than the ones they already have in place — at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas — the validation of ParkHub’s combination of scanning hardware and information management software could result in some big-name deals via the partnership, as VenueNext increases its roster of teams and venues using its stadium-app software platform.

Right now, the main value of ParkHub’s PRIME mobile point-of-sale system (and specialized scanner equipment from Verifone) is that it allows parking-lot attendants to quickly accept and verify a wide range of payments — including cash, credit card or scans of printed tickets or digital-device graphics — to first speed up parking-lot entry, and to second provide detailed information to venue parking operators. At Super Bowl 50, ParkHub and Verifone said the system was used by more than 7,000 cars as well as several hundred buses and limos, at one point getting vehicles into the lots at a pace of one car every two seconds, a welcome improvement over the sometimes-crawling lines we’ve all been in at one point or another. As VenueNext signs up more stadium customers like its recent deal with the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium, it will be interesting to see how many times ParkHub can piggyback alongside.

A long history in the parking industry

Right now, ParkHub seems to be one of a couple companies with momentum in the still-nascent event-parking technology market, one that has been talked about a lot for the past few years without much real action where the rubber meets the asphalt lots. Another service, Parking Panda, has several partnership deals with sports teams for its find-and-reserve parking service as well as for a mobile POS system similar to ParkHub’s, according to ParkingPanda chief operating officer James Bain. In a phone interview Bain said Parking Panda provides game-day services for the New England Patriots, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Washington Nationals, as well as for the Los Angeles Convention Center. Other entrants, like StadiumPark, had similar ideas but haven’t yet announced paying customers.

While VenueNext’s fan-facing app has had some parking features like interactive maps directing fans to lots, the actual on-site transaction part of the equation hadn’t been solved until late last year, when ParkHub was brought in under a test relationship, which extended to the Super Bowl. Look for the Dallas-based ParkHub, which according to chief marketing officer Jarrod Fresquez was running parking operations at AT&T Stadium for the recent WrestleMania 32 and its associated WWE events, to be part of the VenueNext-based services available for Dallas Cowboys games this fall.

In a phone interview with Fresquez he described ParkHub’s deep DNA in the parking business, with founder and CEO George Baker being the son of the head of the Parking Company of America in Dallas, where George worked since he was apparently old enough to hold up a “park here” flag.

“I think George has been working in parking since he was 2 years old,” said Fresquez. After an initial foray into consumer parking, ParkHub pivoted into the business-to-business model of performing transactions and relaying information gained to venues and event operators. Fresquez said ParkHub’s strengths include its tight integration with TicketMaster systems, allowing for “real-time” validation of parking passes issued by the ticketing giant. The parking information gathered by the ParkHub system can also be sent to platforms like VenueNext’s, which can use it to gauge which lots are filling up and relay that information to fans.

More importantly for venues, digital parking systems also help eliminate potential losses of cash-based systems, aka the apron method. In addition to speeding up the parking process, digital systems like ParkHub’s also provide invaluable granular marketing information, about how many fans use credit cards or pre-purchased parking passes, for example. Those statistics and integration with other fan data are a big part of the VenueNext selling proposition for its app technology and management systems for venue owners and operators.

Someday, maybe management for leaving the lots

ParkHub, which also counts the American Airlines Center in Dallas and Amelie Arena in Tampa among its current clients, is also testing some automated-gate technology at American Airlines Center, according to Fresquez, part of its quest to “continue to innovate and improve” the venue parking experience. Here at Mobile Sports Report we often wonder why technology can’t also be applied to perhaps the biggest problem with event parking, namely the crush formed by fans leaving the lots after games, where mass confusion and Mad Max-type behavior often rules the day.

According to Fresquez, ParkHub is working on sensor technology which someday might allow fans to reserve specific spots in lots, like the ones closest to the exits to facilitate a quick departure. Until then, we’ll have to settle for assistance with paying and parking lot entry, which while not complete is still welcome.