New Report: Inside the technology at SoFi Stadium and Allegiant Stadium

Stadium Tech Report is pleased to announce our FALL 2020 issue, with profiles of two of the most innovative new venues to open – SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas! While neither venue will host fans this NFL season, our profiles will dig in-depth to tell you about the technologies in place to make these stadiums the most advanced when it comes to the game-day experience. We also have a substantive news analysis story about how venues and product and service suppliers are planning to tackle two of the biggest venue issues when it comes to hosting fans during a pandemic – venue entry and concessions operations.

We’d like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors, which for this issue include Corning, Boingo, MatSing, Cox Business/Hospitality Network, Comcast Business, American Tower, CommScope, AmpThink and ExteNet Systems. Their generous sponsorship makes it possible for us to offer this content free of charge to our readers. We’d also like to welcome readers from the Inside Towers community, who may have found their way here via our ongoing partnership with the excellent publication Inside Towers. We’d also like to thank the SEAT community for your continued interest and support.

We would like to take a moment here and give some special thanks to the people at SoFi Stadium and at Allegiant Stadium, and to all the other subjects we interviewed for this issue, for their extra help when it came to providing interview time and especially photos to help bring our publications to life. We quite literally couldn’t have done this without your help, and we look forward to visiting venues again in the near future!

Venue Display Report: An in-depth look at SoFi Stadium’s amazing videoboard

STADIUM TECH REPORT is pleased to welcome you to the latest issue of our VENUE DISPLAY REPORT series, with an in-depth report on perhaps the most innovative main stadium video board ever, the new Samsung dual-sided, 4K oval videoboard at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

These long-form reports are designed to give stadium and large public venue owners and operators, and digital sports business executives a way to dig deep into the topic of digital display technology, via exclusive research and profiles of successful stadium and large public venue display technology deployments, as well as news and analysis of topics important to this growing market.

As venues seek to improve fan engagement and increase sponsor activation, display technology offers powerful new ways to improve the in-stadium fan experience while also increasing the bottom line for stadium business operations. Read on as we examine not just new display technology and successful deployments, but also study how display technologies can support successful marketing and advertising campaigns!

A special thanks is due here to sponsor Samsung, whose support allows us to make this content free to readers. We’d also like to extend a special thanks to the Samsung staff and the folks at SoFi Stadium for all their help in arranging remote interviews and to provide pictures and video so you can get at least a virtual sense of the amazing new technology that awaits visitors to SoFi Stadium. Looking forward to future visits!

Big Ten votes to start football season in late October

In a somewhat stunning reversal, the Big Ten conference Wednesday had a unanimous vote from chancellors and presidents to start its football season the weekend of Oct. 23, after first suspending the season on Aug. 11, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the Big Ten cited improved medical testing and screening as part of the reason why it reversed its earlier decision, reporting from Sportico notes that both political and economic pressure may have played a role in the decision, which comes even as Covid-19 cases continue to occur nationwide.

The start of other Power 5 conference seasons this past weekend may also have played a role in the Big Ten’s decision, even as those schools had poor compliance by fans to Covid-19 safety protocols for stadium attendance. So far, there have been no reports on whether or not Big Ten schools will allow fans to attend games, but most likely some will have limited-attendance plans to try to recoup some of the lost game-day revenue.

The Pac-12, which suspended its season the day after the Big Ten did, recently signed a deal for improved Covid-19 testing, which in recent reports suggest that at the very least the conference should be able to start basketball season sooner rather than later.

Weekend update: Some college football fans seem to ignore Covid-19 precautions

Well, the first “real” weekend of limited-audience experiments in college and pro football is now in the books, and from a fan-compliance standpoint, it is still very much a work in progress. While Mobile Sports Report wasn’t able to be at any of the games live, we did try to keep a finger on the pulse of what was happening via news reports and Twitter posts, the latter of course are always subject to the caveat that sometimes we simply can’t verify the validity of the posts.

But from corroborations on social media and from news reports, it was pretty obvious that at certain venues — especially Florida State and Oklahoma — fans, especially college students, were simply not adhering to the Covid-19 precautions put in place by the venues that were allowing fans to attend.

Since the Florida State game (a 16-13 loss to Georgia Tech) was on national TV on ABC, it was pretty easy for anyone to see that many in the limited-attendance crowd were not paying any attention to rules about masks and social distancing. The Tallahassee Democrat ran a story about the national reaction to the fans, and got this quote from FSU athletic director David Coburn:

“We were disappointed with some fans, particularly some student fans, at the Georgia Tech football game who did not comply with our policies regarding social distancing and wearing masks while in their seats,” FSU Athletic Director David Coburn said Sunday in a statement to the Democrat. “There was ample room for all fans to remain safely distanced. We have three weeks until our next home game, and we will re-double our efforts to both inform our patrons and improve compliance with the new rules.”

The bigger question that goes unanswered, of course, is why there was no attempt to enforce the Covid-19 rules.

Some similar behavior was on display at Oklahoma, where students also seemed to ignore Covid-19 precautions once inside the stadium. A story in the OU Daily has a photograph showing students massing close together, with minimal mask wearing. Though OU had protocols in place — like distance markers at concession stands — an attendee at the game noted that while “many followed the protocols a significant number [of fans] did not.”

Socially distanced fans (and band) at Notre Dame’s home opener. (Screen shot from NBC broadcast)

Notre Dame, on the other hand, seemed to have a better amount of buy-in from students on Covid-19 safety procedures. From what we could tell by watching the NBC broadcast of the Irish’s win over Duke, students (and the band) seemed to be complying well with social distancing in the stands and the wearing of masks.

Were the pro games better?

Two of the NFL games this weekend, including the Thursday night season opener in Kansas City, also allowed a limited number of fans, and as far as we can tell (from tracking Twitter and news reports) fans at those games largely followed the extensive procedures put in place ahead of the games. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who beat the Indianapolis Colts 27-20 in their home opener, had a full web page that described what fans needed to do to help keep everyone safe. With no reports of bad fan behavior in Jacksonville we are assuming most of the fans in attendance complied with the rules.

And while fans at the Kansas City Chiefs’ home opener may have earned some national derision for booing the players’ pregame solidarity moment, from what we could tell it looked like fans in the seats were staying apart and masked. Thanks to the Twitter feed of Tom Proebstle for his posts from Arrowhead.

Montreal Impact picks Aruba for new Wi-Fi network at Saputo Stadium

When fans are allowed back into Saputo Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact, at some future point they will be able to connect to a new Wi-Fi network using gear from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.

The ongoing deployment, announced today in a press release, will use approximately 250 802.11ac Wave 2 (aka Wi-Fi 5) APs to cover the 19,000-plus seat venue, according to Aruba. In the metal-framed sections of the venue, Aruba said 128 of the APs will be deployed in an under-seat enclosure.

“Though the pandemic has caused us to have to delay the start of our home game play this year, engaging with fans and allowing them to share their experiences with each other and via social media is still one of the main hallmarks of the in-stadium experience,” said Roger Miron, IT director for Saputo Stadium, in a prepared statement. “Implementing a reliable, high performing Wi-Fi network is the first step in our multi-phase initiative to enable extraordinary experiences, as well as improve our own stadium operations.”

According to the release, Saputo Stadium is working with Canadian telecom partner Vidéotron to deploy Aruba access points, mobility controllers and Aruba core and access switches, as well as Aruba’s Airwave network management system. In addition to fan-facing Internet access, the Impact and Saputo will look to use the new network to power new types of concession features, including mobile ordering, and will also look to debut a stadium app with mobile ticketing capability.

Kentucky Derby to run without fans

Reversing course from several previously planned options to include fans at this year’s race, the Kentucky Derby announced that the Sept. 5 event will now be held without fans, due to safety concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With the current significant increases in COVID-19 cases in Louisville as well as across the region, we needed to again revisit our planning,” the race said in a prepared statement. “We have made the difficult decision to hold this year’s Kentucky Derby on September 5 without fans. Churchill Downs and all of our team members feel strongly that it is our collective responsibility as citizens of Louisville to do all we responsibly can to protect the health, safety and security of our community in these challenging times and believe that running the Derby without spectators is the best way to do that. We deeply regret the disappointment this will bring to our loyal fans.”

According to the Derby, the Kentucky Oaks race will still be held on Friday, Sept. 4, and NBC will show both the Oaks (3-6 p.m. Eastern time) and the Derby and its undercard races (2:30 – 7:30 p.m. Eastern time) on TV.

Prior to being rescheduled from its traditional May date due to the pandemic, Mobile Sports Report had heard several strategies for bringing more connectivity to the sprawling grounds of Churchill Downs, where DAS improvements over the years have kept pace with the ever-growing demand for more mobile bandwidth from fans at bucket-list events. Now we will have to wait until 2021 at least to see if Churchill Downs adds in more wireless capacity, especially on the Wi-Fi side.