‘Best of Breed’ wireless drives Chase Center experience

An under-seat Wi-Fi AP enclosure at Chase Center, foreground, with a DAS enclosure visible to the left. Credit all photos (except where otherwise noted): Paul Kapustka, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

As stunning as Chase Center is visually, what you can’t see is equally powerful in adding to the fan experience. Namely, the wireless networks, and the gear that supports the connectivity.

Inside the shiny new home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, which sits on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, is a cellular DAS deployment from Verizon using Corning gear that may be the new forward-thinking model for cellular infrastructure for large public venues like stadiums and arenas. The 18,000-seat arena also has a Wi-Fi network using gear from Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, which supports the emerging Wi-Fi 6 standard for communications inside the main seating bowl.

But if you’re attending a Warriors game, or one of the many concerts scheduled at Chase Center, you may not ever see the equipment that brings the world-class connectivity to the fans. Both the DAS and the Wi-Fi networks utilize an under-seat antenna deployment method, just part of an aesthetic plan that does its best to minimize the visual impact of antennas and other wireless gear. Even deeper into the building is all the optical fiber supporting the networks, with capacity for future needs already in place.

During a mid-October 2019 visit before all the networks were fully tuned, Mobile Sports Report still got strong test results from both Wi-Fi and DAS networks in most areas in and around the arena, clear confirmation that the Warriors’ goal of having excellent wireless connectivity at their new home was right on track. And with the Corning ONE system in behind a DAS design built from the ground up with future needs in mind, as well as the expected capacity gains coming from Wi-Fi 6, the Warriors and their partners are confident they’ve built a wireless system worthy of their world-class venue goals.

“We feel extremely proud” of the venue’s wireless systems, said Brian Fulmer, director of information technology for the Golden State Warriors. Though the inevitable construction delays led to some late nights heading up to the arena’s Sept. 6, 2019 public debut, according to Fulmer all wireless systems were fully online for the opening Metallica concert, where the arena saw 2.58 terabytes of data used on the Wi-Fi network with another 2.69 TB used at another Metallica show a couple days later.

“It was a race to the finish line but we did it, and the performance speaks for itself,” said Fulmer.

Searching for ‘Best in Breed’

Editor’s note: This profile is from our latest STADIUM TECH REPORT, which is available to read instantly online or as a free PDF download! Inside the issue are profiles of the new Wi-Fi deployment at the University of Oklahoma, as well as profiles of wireless deployments at Fiserv Forum and the University of Florida! Start reading the issue now online or download a free copy!

If there was ever a chance to build the best-ever new arena, Chase Center was probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. When you combine the championship run of the team on the court with a devoted fan base centered in one of the hottest economic markets ever, you have the liberty to search for quality instead of bargains on every level.

A Wi-Fi AP hovers over a concourse gathering area.

(Case in point: The Warriors were able to sell out of their new court-level luxury suites, which have rooms just under the stands that include private wine lockers and can cost up to $2 million per year. Clearly, this is a model that may not work in places that aren’t Silicon Valley.)

For the privately financed $1.4 billion building, the Warriors turned to consulting firm Accenture to help determine the “best in breed” technology partners, especially on the wireless front. Several Warriors executives interviewed for this story did all agree on one main point: The team was not trying to install any technology to win imaginary awards for being the best or fastest building out there. Instead, it was all about how technology, especially wireless, could help bring about a world-class experience during every visit.

“Nobody shows up [at an arena] just looking for fast wireless speeds,” said Mike Kitts, the Warriors’ senior vice president for partnerships. “They want to interact. We wanted to create unforgettable experiences in an engaging environment. With the end in mind of a world-class experience, we knew great technology would absolutely play a role.”

Like a team drafting top players, the Warriors ended up choosing Verizon to lead the distributed antenna system (DAS) for cellular wireless, and Aruba for Wi-Fi. To build its neutral-host system, Verizon chose Corning and the Corning ONE platform, with an installation led by Communication Technology Services (CTS).

“We certainly leveraged the expertise of Verizon, as well as AT&T (which is also on the DAS as a client),” said Fulmer. “They’ve done this countless times, and they have the lessons learned of painful experiences.”

Building a DAS that can handle growth

Anyone in the stadium business in Northern California doesn’t have to look too far or remember too long ago to recall one such example of the pain that the nonstop growth in cellular demand can cause. After the San Francisco 49ers’ brand-new home, Levi’s Stadium, opened in 2014, the also brand-new DAS had to be upgraded the very next season to ensure it had enough capacity for the upcoming Super Bowl 50. Verizon, which basically invented under-seat DAS antennas for that deployment, said it had a goal at Chase Center to build a DAS that didn’t need upgrading for at least a few years.

A Wi-Fi AP painted to blend into the outside facade.

Terry Vance, senior manager for Verizon’s Pacific market network performance group, said “the plan from day 1 was to build a DAS with capacity for today and tomorrow. We needed to build this DAS so that for the next 3 to 4 years, we won’t have to touch it.”

Verizon also had to build the DAS in a way that complied with the Warriors’ stringent requirements for clear sight lines, especially in the main bowl seating area. According to the Warriors’ Fulmer, the team “looked at handrail [enclosure] designs,” but rejected them in favor of an under-seat approach. Though more costly in both equipment and construction, the under-seat approach was Verizon’s favored method as well to get more density in the arena.

What Verizon ended up with was a design that currently uses 71 active sectors, with 42 of those in the seating bowl. According to Vance, all the sectors in the bowl area can basically be split into two parts if needed, for a total of 84 potential bowl sectors. Currently, Vance said there are 598 under-seat DAS antennas in use.

According to Vance the Corning ONE system’s extensive use of optical fiber makes it easier to add capacity to the system as needed.

“The fiber to the edge [in the Corning system] is especially useful as you go to 5G,” Vance said. Though it’s not part of the shared DAS system, Verizon also has full 5G bowl coverage at Chase Center, one of the first arena deployments in California. Verizon also is using a couple of MatSing ball antennas, mounted in the rafters to provide cellular coverage to the floor area for concerts and other non-basketball events.

Right now AT&T is the only other carrier on the DAS, with participation from T-Mobile and/or Sprint pending depending upon the outcome of those two companies’ potential merger.

A Verizon 5G speedtest. Credit: Verizon

Jessica Koch, sports and entertainment director of business development for Corning optical communications, gave praise to integrator CTS for its deployment know-how, which she said was “critical to the success of this project.” Corning, Koch said, knows that for fans in large venues like Chase Center, “reliable connectivity without restriction – all the time, at full speed, on any device, from anywhere – has become the expectation in our connected world.”

For Warriors president and COO Rick Welts, the best wireless system is one fans don’t see or worry about, but just use without concern.

“The best thing is if the phone just works, and I don’t have to think about it,” said Welts, who led a stadium tour during MSR’s October visit.

Though Verizon said the system went through some necessary optimization during the hectic early events schedule at Chase Center, Verizon engineers in December were getting DAS speed tests in excess of 100 Mbps for both download links in most locations, according to Philip French, vice president of network engineering for Verizon. Download speeds for 5G connections, he said, are breaking the 1 Gbps mark.

“This DAS is unique since it was the first one we’ve built with 5G in mind from the ground up,” French said. “It’s a very robust design, and for us this is the design of the future.”

Leading the way with Wi-Fi 6

Like several other stadiums that were being finished this past summer, Chase Center was able to take advantage of the release of Wi-Fi equipment that supports the emerging Wi-Fi 6 standard. Though all the new capabilities won’t be fully realized until most end-user devices also support the new version of Wi-Fi, having support for the technology inside the arena was key for the Warriors’ plans.

“You can never really be ‘future proofed’ but we were extremely fortunate with the timing [of Wi-Fi 6 gear arriving],” said the Warriors’ Fulmer. “We were right in the sweet spot for an initial deployment.”

Wi-Fi and DAS gear on the catwalk.

According to Aruba, Chase Center has approximately 250 Aruba 500 Series APs (which support Wi-Fi 6) deployed in the main seating bowl, mostly in under-seat enclosures. Overall, there are approximately 852 total APs used in the full Chase Center network, which includes coverage inside the building as well as in the connected outdoor plaza areas.

During our October visit, MSR got Wi-Fi speedtests of 27.3 Mbps on the download side and 18.2 Mbps on the upload side while standing outside the east entry doors near the big mirror balls that are selfie central for fans visiting the new arena. Inside the doors, our speedtest in the lobby got a mark of 55.8 Mbps / 68.6 Mbps.

On one upper concourse area, near several concession stands outside portal 57, we got a speedtest of 10.5 Mbps / 11.2 Mbps. In the seats in upper section 220 just before tipoff we got a mark of 46.0 Mbps / 28.0 Mbps, and in a lower-bowl concourse area outside portal 9 we got a test mark of 53.7 Mbps / 71.5 Mbps.

According to Aruba, several events other than the Metallica concerts have passed the 2 TB Wi-Fi data mark so far, with several events seeing more than 8,000 unique clients connected and marks of 6,000+ concurrent connected devices and 2.6 Gbps of throughput.

The Warriors’ Fulmer praised not just the Wi-Fi gear but the full “end to end network solutions” available from Aruba as well as from parent Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which is a founding partner at Chase Center.

“We’re still only three months in, and there’s a lot more that we want to do,” Fulmer said. “It was not a small undertaking. But I think we can let the technology speak for itself.”

Warriors go ‘biggest’ with Chase Center digital displays

The exterior of Chase Center, with its humongous video board. Credit: Brian Nitenson, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

With a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build the best basketball arena around, the Golden State Warriors went all in on digital displays at Chase Center, installing the NBA’s largest video board while putting in more pixels overall than any other arena in the league.

The the star of the show is the centerhung video board, a mammoth 9,699-square-foot display from Samsung’s Prismview with 15 separate boards, including ones underneath so the courtside fans don’t have to crane their necks too far upward. While the so-called “chandelier” dominates the view inside the Warriors’ new home, one hint that the Warriors are getting display restraint right is the fact that the board can be completely hidden if so desired, sucked up into a hiding hole in the ceiling. The hide-the-scoreboard trick seems to be proof that the Warriors care enough about the venue experience if it means they have to stow away their favorite toy every now and then.

In a mid-October 2019 visit to Chase Center, Mobile Sports Report can tell you that there is no missing the video displays inside the new $1.4 billion arena, which opened in September 2019 in San Francisco, just south of the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park alongside the San Francisco Bay. With 64 different video boards in total, which according to Samsung includes 53.6 million individual pixels – as well as another 1,100 Samsung LCD TV screens – Chase Center is as digitally visual as can be, with (according to the Warriors) 40 percent more display screen area than any other comparable-size venue.

The most pixels inside

Editor’s note: This profile is from our recent Venue Display Report, which you can view in its entirety online, with embedded videos and much better photography! You can also read about Chase Center’s wireless networking in our recent Stadium Tech Report, also available for instant online reading! When it comes to technology at Chase Center, there is no better in-depth resource than Mobile Sports Report!

The impressive Chase Center centerhung video board from Samsung’s Prismview. Credit all following photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR

The display deployment actually starts outside Chase Center, where at the western entry there sits a 74-foot by 42-foot screen that welcomes fans to the arena. The outdoor video board, according to the Warriors the only live video screen in the city, faces an interesting bit of architecture, a stand of steps that will serve as a de facto outdoor gathering space, a feature many stadiums are incorporating lately. Just inside that entryway sits another visual treat, a wide high-definition (1.5mm pitch) video board that provides instant connection to whatever event is taking place, whether it be a Warriors game or a concert.

Inside the main bowl, the centerhung video board dominates all views, with its incredibly crisp (6.7mm pixel pitch) main screens. While all the numbers can be staggering, according to Warriors president and COO Rick Welts, the team didn’t install the biggest and brightest displays simply to win some kind of imaginary tech title.

Instead, he claims, it’s all about creating the best possible fan experience for a following that represents a unique confluence of events, namely the economic success of Silicon Valley and the recent run of NBA championships by the Warriors.

Keeping the focus on the game, or the event

“There’s no doubt we are in an arms race (in regards to stadium technology) but we didn’t want to let that drive us,” said Welts, who was our guide for a media tour of Chase Center in October. But it’s also worthwhile to note that there are probably less than a handful of other professional or college teams who could currently match the Warriors’ unique combination of a rabid fan base with immense amounts of disposable income.

In a day and age when most new venues are built with at least some kind of public tax money, the Warriors’ new $1.4 billion home was entirely privately financed, helped along by things like the new courtside premium suites, which come with their own wine locker and wine butler, and cost around $2 million per year, according to Welts.

Upper-deck seating has an extra LED board to provide more stats

“It’s just what you can do when you combine the hottest economic model in the world [in Silicon Valley] with an amazing team,” said Welts, who noted that the courtside suites all sold out. “I would not recommend this format for most teams.”

But even with more blinking lights than any other facility, the Warriors seem very conscious about not making the venue seem like the Las Vegas strip, or New York’s Times Square. Instead, the team wants to make sure that all its digital-board messaging contributes to the moment, whether that moment is a Warriors’ game or a concert or some other type of show.

“The trick is to strike a balance, between commercial content and Warriors content,” said Mike Kitts, the Warriors’ senior vice president for partnerships. According to Kitts, the Warriors are working with sponsor partners to create digital messages that are at least what he calls “Warrior-esque” – such as combining some kind of basketball theme to advertising messages.

“You want something that feels authentic to the moment,” Kitts said.

Feeding the content beast with things fans want

When the San Francisco Giants installed a new huge video board at Oracle Park this past season, the Giants’ team had an interesting problem in deciding what kind of information to include on all the new space.

Similarly, the Warriors’ expansive digital canvas gives the team the ability to indulge the geekiest of hoops junkies with incredibly specific information – while also trying not to overwhelm the average fan.

“What we want to do is provide all the things that fans say, ‘I want.’ “ Kitts said. At a preseason game against the Los Angeles Lakers the Chase Center screens not only provided the regular kind of statistical information (shots made and missed) for players on the court, they also had some changing screens that could do tricks like show exactly where on the court a player just made a shot from – and what that player’s “heat check” stats were for all shots taken so far that game.

Can you see me? The centerhung video board can disappear into the rafters as needed

“We are continually programming [the displays],” said Paul Hawkins, the executive producer of the Warriors’ in-house content team, called Warriors Studio. “It’s a huge challenge for us as content creators to make this come to life.”

To that end, the Warriors have assembled what is probably also the largest team of content creators and programmers. With 23 full-time employees and another 15 part-time contributors (“and that doesn’t count the freelancers”), the Warriors think they may have the NBA’s biggest in-house content creation team, though they say the Miami Heat may have just as many.

If that seems like an excessive number, remember the stats from the start of the story – with 64 different LED boards, the math to make a single sponsor’s message fit all the different screen dimensions for an arena-wide “moment of exclusivity” is a much different challenge at Chase Center than at other arenas.

And even while back in October the content team admitted it was still “not perfect yet” at dialing in its on-screen workflows, from attending both a Phil Collins concert and the Warriors game on back-to-back nights, MSR can attest that the ability to change looks and feels based on what’s on (or not on) the digital displays can significantly improve the attendee experience – including not seeing the huge centerhung display at all when we sat and listened to Phil Collins and his band playing all the hits from the musician’s vast historical library.

From our limited exposure, we still think the Golden State Warriors did what they wanted to at Chase Center when it comes to digital displays: They used the biggest and best technology, but did it in a way where the technology isn’t the star – but the experience it allows is.

Displays in the luxury suites can be programmed to a point-of-view camera from the owners’ seats


All the display stats, courtesy of Samsung’s own screen

The high-definition lobby display

Concessions menus offer live action, advertisements and menu prices

Sometimes, a non-digital display works just as well

First Look: Inside Chase Center, the Golden State Warriors’ new home

The exterior of Chase Center, with its humongous video board. Credit all photos: Brian Nitenson, MSR (click on any picture for a larger image)

The first event is coming up fast, but Mobile Sports Report got a sneak peek inside Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors, thanks to the photographic efforts of one of our “field scout” team members, Brian Nitenson, who attended a season ticket-holders event this weekend. Our first reaction to the photo stream is simply ‘wow!,’ and we can’t wait until we can see an event there live.

Since the wireless networks aren’t really fully operational yet we don’t have any speed tests from Brian’s visit but from his pictures we can see multiple Wi-Fi and DAS antenna deployments so it’s a safe bet that the connectivity will be first-rate. There is also some hint of advanced technology being used in the concessions department — note the photo of a sign instructing fans toward a credit-card kiosk operation — which makes sense given the main business of the arena’s title sponsor.

Much more coverage from Chase Center to follow this fall, but for now take a look at the NBA’s newest arena, a privately financed jewel on the San Francisco bay.


A good look at the Samsung center-hung scoreboard


One of the under-seat antenna deployments


Kiosk ordering! More good news as technology hits the concession stand

This is what the scoreboard looks like from seats you will never be able to afford

One of the club areas

Part of the striking architecture in the entry area

Antennas painted to blend in

Some interesting gear in the top catwalk areas

Some of the upper level ‘theater box’ seating

Lots of Wi-Fi and DAS antennas visible covering the upper decks

Scoreboard and ribbon board view from seats higher up

A nice view out to the bay

Do I spy Wi-Fi way up high?

A wide look at the big screen

MSR at MWC: Come see us in San Francisco!

If you are attending the Mobile World Congress Americas show this week in San Francisco, make sure you check out the Thursday morning series of keynote presentations moderated by yours truly, including a “fireside chat” with Al Guido, president of the San Francsico 49ers. Al and I will talk about Levi’s Stadium and how the Niners are using their digital strategy to better engage fans… be sure to start your Thursday morning with us! We get underway at 9 a.m. local time, so hit the Starbucks and come on by.

In addition to Al, there are four other keynote presenters who all represent a different part of the customer engagement equation. And later Thursday morning, you can continue your stadium-tech experience by checking out the panel discussion on The Connected Stadium: Enhancing Fan Engagement with representatives from the Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks and Soldier Field (home of da Chicago Bears), as well as FC Barcelona. Moderated by Brian Berger, host of the excellent Sports Business Radio podcast, the panel starts at 11 a.m. local time.

UPDATE: Top 4 carriers combine for 15.9 TB of cellular data use at Super Bowl 50

New Verizon Wireless under-seat DAS antenna placement at Levi's Stadium. Photo: Verizon Wireless

New Verizon Wireless under-seat DAS antenna placement at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Verizon Wireless

UPDATE, 2/8/16, 1:50 p.m. — We now have data totals in from all four of the major U.S. cellular carriers, and at Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, fans combined to use 15.9 terabytes of data on the networks in and directly around Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

Leading the way in usage was Verizon Wireless with a claim of 7 TB used by its customers; AT&T was next with 5.2 TB of claimed usage, followed by T-Mobile with a report of 2.1 TB, and Sprint with 1.6 TB. All the carriers’ numbers are well above figures from last year’s Super Bowl, where by our reporting Sprint, AT&T and Verizon had a combined 6.56 TB of cellular data consumed during the big game. (We did not have any T-Mobile reports from last year.)

For all the carriers, the data apparently includes both traffic on the in-stadium distributed antenna system (DAS) network was well as any macro deployments outside the stadium in parking lot areas. The final total was well over double the 6.56 TB of cellular traffic seen at last year’s big game in Glendale, Ariz. We are still waiting for Wi-Fi numbers from the Levi’s Stadium networking crew but it’s a good bet the 6.23 TB number from last year’s game will be eclipsed and we will have a new single-game Wi-Fi record as well so stay tuned.

Though we did hear and see some scattered reports of network connectivity issues during the Denver Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers it appears the upgrade of the DAS Group Professionals DAS install at Levi’s Stadium with its gear mainly provided by JMA Wireless stood up to the biggest-ever test of traffic. Congrats to all involved.

Thanks also to the Verizon and AT&T crews who supplied us with tweet reports and emails Sunday night, it made for some entertaining in-game stats. Some tweets embedded below.

Verizon puts cellular antennas under seats to improve Levi’s Stadium DAS ahead of Super Bowl 50

New Verizon Wireless under-seat DAS antenna placement at Levi's Stadium. Photo: Verizon Wireless

New Verizon Wireless under-seat DAS antenna placement at Levi’s Stadium. Photo: Verizon Wireless

In a first for distributed antenna system (DAS) deployments, Verizon Wireless is using under-seat antenna deployments in Levi’s Stadium to increase capacity for Super Bowl 50, according to a Verizon executive interviewed Wednesday.

Brian Mecum, vice president, network for Verizon Wireless, said in a phone interview that large amounts of wireless traffic at last year’s Super Bowl spurred Verizon to help fund a full replacement of the Levi’s Stadium DAS, which was only a year old, to make sure that this year’s big game would be able to handle the expected usage growth. Mecum said the carrier expects to see as much as 6 terabytes or more of cellular traffic during the Feb. 7 game between the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers at the San Francisco 49ers’ home field in Santa Clara, Calif.

To increase capacity in the lower seating bowls, Mecum said that Verizon basically invented its own under-seat DAS antenna system and paid for its deployment, adding about “30 percent more capacity” through the under-seat antennas alone. For its Wi-Fi network, Levi’s Stadium already uses under-seat access points, as do a growing number of large outdoor arenas. While Verizon’s deployment of under-seat antennas for cellular DAS is a first we’ve heard of, it achieves the same goals as under-seat Wi-Fi, basically just getting signals closer to users in a place where there isn’t any overhead or side structures to attach antennas to.

Close-up of under-seat DAS antenna system. Photo: Verizon Wireless

Close-up of under-seat DAS antenna system. Photo: Verizon Wireless

“To get a quality signal you have to get [the antenna] closer to the device,” and the only way to do that in the 100-level sections of Levi’s Stadium is to go under the seats, Mecum said. Though stadium DAS integrator DAS Group Professionals also upgraded most of its other cellular antennas this summer throughout Levi’s Stadium, the under-seat antennas are exclusive to Verizon Wireless, Mecum said. According to DGP vice president and COO Vince Gamick, just more than 50 under-seat DAS antennas were deployed, along with more than 700 other DAS antennas in the stadium and parking lots.

Low power to ease safety concerns

Though some fans might wonder about the white boxes under their seats, Mecum said the Verizon antenna deployment operates at “well below FCC standards” for power output, and should not be a cause for health concerns.

“They use about the same amount of power as a cell phone,” Mecum said. The antennas are also mounted to shoot their signals down to bounce off the concrete flooring, further reducing the power signal toward fans’ bodies.

According to Mecum, the antennas have already been doing a lot of work during the regular season — though he didn’t provide an exact number, Mecum did say that the 49ers’ home game against the rival Seattle Seahawks (which produced a lot of Wi-Fi traffic) also had a total of DAS traffic on the Verizon network that surpassed the 4.1 TB that Verizon recorded at last year’s Super Bowl at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.

“We’re pretty excited” to see what the eventual Super Bowl DAS traffic number is, Mecum said. “We expect to see at least 1.5 times as much as we saw at the Super Bowl last year.”

San Franicso advertising kiosk where Verizon Wireless installed extra antennas for Super Bowl crowds. Photo: Screen shot from Verizon Wireless video

San Franicso advertising kiosk where Verizon Wireless installed extra antennas for Super Bowl crowds. Photo: Screen shot from Verizon Wireless video

Antennas on kiosks, and engineering for the Lombardi Trophy traffic

The stadium improvements are just part of a Bay area-wide infrastructure improvement blitz from Verizon, a fairly typical thing ahead of big events for almost all the cellular carriers. But some of the pre-game prep for Verizon has a unique flavor for San Francisco, especially the carrier’s decision to put small cells inside San Francisco’s stylish advertising kiosks that dot the downtown area.

With Super Bowl fan activities taking place from San Francisco’s Ferry Building down to the Moscone Convention Center, Mecum said the kiosks became a perfect place to add cellular capacity.

“They were basically empty [at the top] so we ran fiber to them and put in antennas,” Mecum said.

Verizon’s Super Bowl engineering effort also included extra antenna deployments around the areas where the Super Bowl hardware, the Lombardi Trophy and the Super Bowl winning teams’ rings, will be on display.

“The lines to see the trophy and the rings are so long we actually needed to engineer for them and adjust the antenna density [in the display area],” Mecum said. “So you should be able to connect anywhere and everywhere you go for the Super Bowl.”