MSR releases ‘State of the Stadium’ technology survey for 2014

SOS14_thumbWe cover a lot of news about stadium Wi-Fi and DAS deployments, but how many venues out there in the real world actually have such systems deployed? How are their fans using it? And what about other types of stadium-specific technology, like digital signage, social media and CRM systems? How are teams, schools and stadium owner/operators really using technology to improve the fan experience while also improving their business bottom line?

For the second straight year, we asked those questions and more and bring you the answers in our State of the Stadium Technology Survey for 2014, available for free download. Like last year’s inaugural survey, this year’s takes a look at deployments of Wi-Fi and DAS, of digital signage and CRM, and social media campaigns. It is the only numerical survey of this market that we know of, and with more than 70 respondents across all U.S. pro leagues, major colleges and other venues like race tracks and golf courses, we think it represents a pretty good snapshot of where technology deployment stands right now.

What did we find out this year? Mainly that on the wireless side, DAS deployments are far outpacing Wi-Fi, with 71.4 percent of respondents claiming a full-facility DAS, while just 35.7 percent said their facility had full fan-facing Wi-Fi. Our analysis of this situation is pretty clear as to why — with carriers willing to foot the bill for DAS, it’s no surprise that advanced cellular is ahead of Wi-Fi and in some cases is the only advanced wireless system in a stadium.

There’s more good stuff in the survey that we’ll break out over time, but for now why not just download the report and read through it yourself. We’d like to thank report sponsor SOLiD for enabling the free distribution of the survey results, and we’d also like to thank our partner the SEAT Conference, who once again helped us find willing participants to share their deployment statistics. SEAT conference attendees, of course, have had access to the survey since the most recent SEAT event in July; if you want early access to our survey results next year, just sign up for SEAT 2015 in San Francisco — which is already shaping up as an incredible event.

Stadium owners and operators — take our 2014 technology survey!

Call this a call to action for all of you who are part of stadium ownership or operations teams: We need your participation to help make our upcoming State of the Stadium Technology Survey for 2014 better! With our surveying underway, we already have more participants for this year’s survey than we had for last year’s inaugural effort. But the results get better with each new stadium, team or ownership group that participates, so read on below on how to sign up and add your information — and get a free copy of the results and analysis afterwards!

Done in a partnership with the SEAT Consortium, and set to be unveiled at the SEAT 2014 Conference in Miami on July 20, our State of the Stadium Technology Survey covers the main areas of stadium technology deployment, including Wi-Fi, DAS, Sports CRM, Digital Marketing, Social Media, and Digital Signage. We already have participants from all the major U.S. professional leagues, along with many major colleges as well as other large public venues like race tracks. When we close out our surveying in a couple weeks, we’ll tabulate the results and add in our analysis to produce our 2014 “State of the Stadium” publication, which we will make available to all attendees at the 2014 SEAT conference. All participants in the survey will also get a digital copy of the publication, whether they attend SEAT or not.

How can your team, school or stadium participate? There are two easy ways: One is to send me a direct email to kaps at mobilesportsreport.com, and I will send you the link to our online survey (which takes only several minutes to complete). You can also get a link by subscribing to our email newsletter; later this week there will be an email sent out with a link to the survey site, where you can view the questions and submit your answers. Again, by participating you only help make our results better — and in the process, you get our results and analysis for free for your school, team or stadium to use in your own deployment efforts.

Thanks in advance for your time and help!

MSR Report: State of the Stadium Technology Survey

state_of_stadium_128What is the “state of the stadium” when it comes to technology deployment? That is what we here at Mobile Sports Report set out to discover when we launched our inaugural “State of the Stadium” Technology Survey, in conjunction with our partner the SEAT Consortium, hosts of the recent SEAT 2013 conference in Kansas City.

With more than 50 respondents representing arenas that host the top professional league teams, including the NFL, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL, as well as top U.S. university facilities for basketball and football, European and U.S. professional soccer teams, professional golf and car-racing venues the State of the Stadium Technology Survey provides, we think, the first real statistical snapshot of how teams are deploying technology to both improve the fan experience while helping increase business opportunities. The survey covers deployment and planning decisions for several stadium technology categories, including Wi-Fi, DAS, Digital Signage, Sports Digital Marketing, Sports CRM, and Sports Social Media. You can download a copy of the survey for free, at this link.

What did we discover? Simply, all survey respondents and interviewees were in violent agreement that advanced technologies, especially those involving wireless communications, would be the key to an enhanced fan experience and a bigger roster of business opportunities for stadium owners and operators. Yet for most of the industry, it is still early in the game when it comes to actual stadium technology deployments, as rollout schedules are still paced by the reality of budgetary and situational constraints, a list that often spans from geographic and facility-construction concerns to complexities of partnerships and rights agreements. So the era of the connected stadium is well on its way, but not quite here just yet.

There is a general feeling of a need to move quickly to solve the most pressing problems, while taking time on longer-term and bigger-ticket deployments to ensure the correct choice of technology at the right price with the right return on investment. These findings were confirmed at this week’s SEAT Conference, which we were invited to attend, and we’ll be sharing more stories from SEAT speakers and thought leaders in the following weeks. The best place to start, though, is by downloading the report to get a level-set on what is happening at the biggest facilities out there today.

Free download of the report is made possible by our report sponsors, SOLiD Technologies and Xirrus. We would also like to thank Christine Stoffel and Chris Dill from SEAT, as well as the SEAT attendee organizations who participated in the survey.

MSR Special Report: Bringing Technology to the ‘Friendly Confines’ of Wrigley Field

Wrigley Field on Opening Day, 2012. Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs.  All rights reserved.

Wrigley Field on Opening Day, 2012. Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs. All rights reserved.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of interviews with speakers and thought leaders from the upcoming SEAT 2013 conference in Kansas City, Aug. 4-7.

There are baseball stadiums, and then there is Wrigley Field. As a dyed in the blue-pinstriped-wool Cubs fan, I can’t write objectively about the place. It is Mecca, the Friendly Confines, the hallowed outfield walls of ivy. It’s precisely because of people like me that Andrew McIntyre’s job of bringing better technology to the storied ballyard is so much more complex than that of his stadium-technology peers. Wrigley may have one of the greenest fields anywhere, but from an information-technology deployment standpoint Wrigley is about as far away from a “greenfield” project as you can get.

McIntyre, Senior Director of Information Technology for the Chicago Cubs, spoke with MSR recently on the phone to describe the delicate line his organization must tread as it brings necessary technology improvements to one of the world’s great historic sporting venues. In other stadiums, things like a brand-new huge video board would be welcomed, even celebrated. At Wrigley? Renovation plans that include an outfield video board will need to pass muster with national landmark regulations, and survice reactions from a widespread fan base that resists even the slightest changes to the stadium, and work with the unique neighborhood apartment buildings whose rooftops offer views into the stadium.

So when McIntyre said the Cubs need to get “everyone on board” before things like video screens can be introduced, he’s talking about a lot more than people who pull a Cubs paycheck. That extra planning, McIntyre admits, will likely keep the Cubs a bit behind their sports-stadium brethren in certain technology areas, like digital signage. But on many other fronts McIntyre and his technology team are helping the Cubs and Wrigley keep pace with advanced stadium services, like better mobile device connectivity.

Wi-Fi and DAS, with AT&T

Now in his second year with the Cubs, McIntyre and the IT team there has spent a good amount of time putting infrastructure in place that will support future efforts, beginning with things like optical fiber deployments that bring an almost 10-fold speed improvement in bandwidth backhaul.

Andrew McIntyre, Senior Director of Information Technology, Chicago Cubs. Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs.  All rights reserved.

Andrew McIntyre, Senior Director of Information Technology, Chicago Cubs. Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs. All rights reserved.

“Some severe infrastructure upgrades were needed here to enable initiatives moving forward,” McIntyre said. “There was historically a lack of investment from the IT side of the house. We’ve been working on a lot of non-fan-facing improvements that are very critical to us.”

One improvement that fans have been able to enjoy for the past season and a half is improved mobile connectivity inside the park, thanks to a neutral-host Distributed Antenna System (DAS) deployment and a stadium Wi-Fi network, built with carrier partner AT&T. “Next time you’re here, keep your eyes peeled for the antennas,” McIntyre said.

Having improved cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity puts the Cubs in the top third of MLB franchises, as by our count only 12 of the 30 major league parks currently offer free fan Wi-Fi services. When it comes to advanced apps and services that such in-park networks might power, like same-day seat upgrades or video replays, McIntyre said the Cubs are paying close attention to pilot programs underway at other parks, and will be “fast followers” when MLB-approved solutions are ready for prime time. (All in-stadium apps in baseball parks can only be run through the league’s At Bat or At the Ballpark mobile app.)

“I don’t think anyone’s knocking it out of the park yet” with in-stadium services, McIntyre said. But McIntyre also said he and the Cubs have met with franchises who are trying leading-edge deployments, including the San Francisco Giants and some European stadiums.

“We’re doing a lot of watching, listening, and learning,” McIntyre said.

Digital Signage as a Communication Vehicle

While most of the heated debate around the Cubs’ renovation plans centers on the size and placement of the proposed outfield video board, McIntyre and his team are looking deeper into a synchronized digital signage strategy, where boards all around the stadium — even, say, a concession stand pricing menu — could become a communications vehicle for the team to send messages out to the fans.

Wrigley Field marquee entrance. Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs.  All rights reserved.

Wrigley Field marquee entrance. Photo courtesy of Chicago Cubs. All rights reserved.

“One major thing we are investigating is how the signage can change, to become a communications channel,” McIntyre said. Currently, when games go to a rain delay, there’s not a lot of ways for the team to give fans information about when the game might restart, or to communicate weather forecasts and safety instructions. That could change with a digital signage system that can instantly act as a synchronized stadium-wide messaging system.

“The digital signage strategy doesn’t necessarily get highlighted [in public discussions] but it can all become a vehicle to communicate,” McIntyre said.

Andrew McIntyre will be speaking at the upcoming SEAT Conference in Kansas City, Aug. 4-7.

Sunday Sermon: Get your Seat to SEAT 2013

SEAT_290What are you doing the first week of August? If you are in the business of sports stadium or large-arena technology, you should be planning to attend the SEAT 2013 conference Aug. 4-7 in Kansas City. If you’re not, you’re going to miss out on the chance to interact with real people who are tackling the real tasks of bringing technology to their arenas, to enhance the fan experience while they improve their own organization’s bottom line.

As part of our partnership with the folks who run the SEAT conference we are in the process of putting together some great long-form interviews with the people who will be speaking at the event, and those stories will be appearing soon here on the MSR site. Though I hope the stories are informative and entertaining, I know they’re just a small substitute for the “main course” of information you can get by showing up at SEAT in person, to listen in person to the nuances and details of the work being done by these stadium-technology leaders.

Though we’ve paid a lot of attention to stadium technology here at MSR over the last two years, I’ve always known that we are only scratching the surface when we report, say, a new Wi-Fi network being deployed. There’s always more to the story, and as I am learning through these recent interviews with SEAT speakers, there is almost always something specific and local to a stadium, arena or large-crowd facility that is far different from the norm. Like having to deal with historic building regulations in order to install video boards, or having to satisfy a sponsor contract with a wireless service provider while trying to bring connectivity to all the fans in a facility. We’ll soon have some interesting tales from folks running some of the biggest-name places in the big leagues of sports, so stay tuned to hear their stories.

The bottom line is, there are no easy, cookie-cutter ways to deploy technology. That’s why I think hearing as many stories and insights as possible from the people doing this work today is invaluable. And that’s what you’ll get from Aug. 4-7 in Kansas City at SEAT: up-close and personal interaction with the leading deployers of stadium technology and applications, in a setting set up to foster collaboration and information sharing. Don’t miss out, book your ticket to SEAT today.

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