Twitter and the NFL: What does the deal mean for team apps and mobile video? Stadium Tech Report Podcast No. 3 tells you!

Episode 3 of the STADIUM TECH REPORT PODCAST is live, in which hosts Phil Harvey and Paul Kapustka discuss the NFL’s Thursday Night Football streaming deal with Twitter, and what that deal means for both team stadium apps in particular and for mobile video use in general. Take a listen and let us know what you think!

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PODCAST: Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes!

Stadium Tech Report: World Series set new wireless records at AT&T Park

AT&T Park during the World Series. Photo: SF Giants (click on any photo for a larger image)

AT&T Park during the World Series. Photo: SF Giants (click on any photo for a larger image)

The most-connected park in all of baseball is still finding ways to serve more people more data, as proven by the wireless consumption records set by the San Francisco Giants during last year’s World Series.

The traffic generated at the three games at AT&T Park was “definitely more than anything we had ever experienced before,” said Bill Schlough, senior vice president and chief information officer for the Giants. The combined download and upload numbers for both the park’s Wi-Fi network and AT&T traffic on its DAS network averaged 2.08 terabytes per game, Schlough said, with a high of 2.14 TB of total traffic for Game 4.

Since AT&T Park has had Wi-Fi longer than any sports stadium in the U.S. – this season will be its 12th with stadium-wide Wi-Fi – and since last year was the Giants’ third World Series in five years – Schlough’s team was perhaps a bit more prepared than most IT staffs for the expected demands.

“The traffic followed the standard trend, where each round [of the playoffs] saw successively higher demand,” Schlough said. Upload totals also increase as the team progresses through the playoffs, he said, perhaps more so now that fans of all types are getting more adept at adding multimedia to their messaging.

“You don’t just send a text anymore,” Schlough said. “The expectation is that you will send a picture and or a video.”

Replacing Jay Z and Beyonce at the top

Editor’s note: This story is reprinted from our latest Stadium Tech Report, the BASEBALL (and Soccer!) ISSUE, which is available now for free download from our site. The report includes a focus on baseball and soccer stadium technology deployments, and team-by-team coverage of technology deployments for all 30 MLS teams — AND all 20 MLS teams. DOWNLOAD THE REPORT now and read for yourself!

The spoils of victory. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

The spoils of victory. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Prior to last year’s games with the Kansas City Royals, the top Wi-Fi traffic event at AT&T Park had been a couple concerts earlier in the sum- mer starring Jay Z and Beyonce, where Schlough and his staff saw upload totals of 410 GB on the second night of the show. The World Series games blew by that previous record total with an average of 700 GB uploaded per game, with a high of 750 GB for Game 5.

Wi-Fi download numbers for the three series games averaged 890 GB, Schlough said, with a max of 940 GB during Game 3. For the AT&T customers on the park’s DAS, download num- bers for the Series averaged 320 GB per game with a maximum of 350 GB for Game 4. DAS upload totals were an average of 170 GB per game.

Not even knowing you’re on Wi-Fi

What amazed or satisfied Schlough even more than the raw data numbers was the Wi-Fi take rate, or the number of fans connected to the network. For the Series it hovered right around 50 percent, meaning that every other fan in the 42,000-seat venue was using the network.

The view from left field corner. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

The view from left field corner. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Regular-season Wi-Fi take rates, he said, were usually in the 30-percent range, climbing to 40 percent as the playoffs progressed. One thing that helps people connect to the Wi-Fi network at AT&T Park is the overall ubiquity of AT&T hotspots – “If you’ve accessed another AT&T hotspot anywhere else, you get automatically activated when you’re here [at AT&T Park],” Schlough said.

Fan surveys, he said, showed that many people didn’t even know they were connected to the Wi-Fi network instead of the cellular networks. “I think that’s cool,” Schlough said. “Fans should come to an event and be universally connected, without having to think about it. They should just be able to turn on their phones and share.”

More APs for the upper deck

For 2015, Schlough and his team will finish off the latest Wi-Fi upgrade with the installation of another 400 under-seat APs for the stadium’s upper decks, which will bring the park’s AP total to almost 1,700 when it’s finished. Already this year Schlough said that fans at Giants games are using more data than last year – an average of 1.1 TB per game over the first 10 games of the 2015 season, compared to an average of 650 GB per game over the same time period in 2014.

Giants fans check out the three WS trophies, at a 2015 season game. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Giants fans check out the three WS trophies, at a 2015 season game. Photo: Paul Kapustka, MSR

Though he didn’t want to dive into details, since last year Schlough said the network is seeing “a lot more photos and a lot more videos.” He also said his team is on the lookout for use of livestreaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat,
which he expects might happen at AT&T Park before it happens anywhere else, perhaps due to the overall technological bent of the local populace.

“We feel we have a relatively unique fan base,” Schlough said. “If anyone is going to do it [livestream during games] it’ll probably happen first in this region.”

Stadium Tech Report: San Francisco’s AT&T Park lives up to its wireless reputation

Another tough day at the office for MSR. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR. (Click on any picture for a larger image)

Another tough day at the office for MSR. Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR. (Click on any picture for a larger image)

Many times here at Mobile Sports Report we’ve referred to AT&T Park as the “most connected” or “best connected” stadium in baseball, if not for all sports anywhere. But even after multiple network tours and numerous reports from stats given to us by Giants CIO Bill Schlough and his staff I realized that one thing I’ve never done is to roam around the park on a game day, checking to see if its renowned Wi-Fi and DAS networks perform as promised.

Now after attending a recent day game as the guest of AT&T, I can tell you that the stadium that first put in fan-facing Wi-Fi for every seat is still at the forefront of ballpark connectivity, with Wi-Fi and DAS performance that knocks the ball out of the park almost every time. I say “almost” because during my walkaround tour I was able to find one place in the park that had almost no connectivity at all — but I will also bet you that as soon as this story is published, Schlough and his team will likely be out there the next day installing some kind of coverage since he and they have an almost unmatched enthusiasm for making their fan-facing network the best it can be. That, plus a strong partnership with AT&T, gives fans at Giants games perhaps the best stadium network anywhere, with performance so good for so long that it has almost become somewhat of an afterthought, one of the best kind of compliments a network staff can receive.

Nothing beats a strong team

Dynasty is a word fans like to use around Third and King Street in San Francisco, especially after the Giants won their third World Series title in 5 years last fall. Schlough, who loves baseball and the Giants as much as he loves networks, used the press-day gathering to show off his most recent Series ring, a chunk of gold and diamonds that probably gives you a wrist-curl workout when you put it on.

AT&T Park CIO Bill Schlough shows off his World Series bling.

AT&T Park CIO Bill Schlough shows off his World Series bling.

(Point of reference: Schlough offered the ring to me to try on, but as a dyed-blue Cubs fan I refused. “Waiting for one with ‘Cubs’ on it,” I told him. As we say in Chicago, “if it takes forever.”)

You might have heard some of the early Wi-Fi stories from AT&T Park before, but they’re fun to repeat. Then known as SBC Park, after the sponsoring “Baby Bell” that would later revive the family name of AT&T, the Wi-Fi network that debuted in 2004 attracted an average of about 94 fans a game, Schlough said, diehard geeks who would have to put up with people mocking them for bringing laptops to a ballgame. Remember, the iPhone was still 3 years away from existing, and you had to stick a PC card in a laptop to connect to Wi-Fi.

Fast forward to 2015, and now for regular season games the Giants see an average of just more than 13,000 people connecting to the Wi-Fi network, a number that has basically leveled off over the past 3 years, Schlough said. What hasn’t leveled off, however, is data use — even from last season, when fans used an average of 591 gigabytes of data per game, so far this season they’re averaging 915 GB per game. That’s why this season Schlough and team will be busy adding another 400+ Cisco Wi-Fi access points to the park, a total that should hit 1,700 by the time October rolls around.

“We’ll be working hand in hand with AT&T trying to stay one step ahead of demand,” Schlough said.

AT&T Park cabling runs are SRO

AT&T Park cabling runs are SRO

Scott Mair, AT&T’s senior vice president of technology, was on hand to help lead network tours before the game and to talk about how AT&T was using a new device called the EchoBOT to help gauge network performance in the park. Though it’s a bit of inside baseball, EchoBOT — which is basically an off-the-shelf cell phone that sits in a ruggedized box — is the kind of thing that can come out of the smart-person pool at a technology giant like AT&T. Invented in-house, the EchoBOT basically gives network operators an on-the-spot way to determine not just how the network is working, but what the actual user experience is like from the end-user point of view.

With 18 EchBOTs scattered throughout AT&T Park, Schlough and AT&T can get a much more granular view of how the stadium’s network is performing, just another way of using the resources of one of the world’s biggest telecom companies helps the fan experience at AT&T Park.

The one place without Wi-Fi

With our network tours concluded and some crispy chicken fingers inhaled in the comfy confines of the AT&T suite just above the third-base line, it was time to go to work to see if the AT&T Park network could deliver as promised. Since I’ve sat in seats at the park many times and had great connectivity there, I spent my time during the afternoon game seeking out what I thought might be some of the hardest places to bring connectivity. The first, in the second-level concourse, looked like it might be a tough antenna spot, with narrow halls and lots of concrete. But bam, on my Verizon iPhone 6 Plus I got a Wi-Fi signal of 31 Mbps down, 21 Mbps up; on my companion loaner device from AT&T, an LG Optimus G Pro, I got a 4G LTE connection of 26.15 Mbps down, 18.02 up. (For all remaining measurements I’ll just use the down/up convention to save time; I was using the standard Speedtest.net app from Ookla for all measurements.)

So yeah, you can connect while you’re in line to get a hot dog.

Here's the only place we couldn't find decent Wi-Fi. #firstworldproblem

Here’s the only place we couldn’t find decent Wi-Fi. #firstworldproblem

Strolling through the concourse toward right field, I saw several Wi-Fi advertisement signs, letting fans know they should definitely connect to the network. That’s a sign of deployment confidence, unlike many parks that install Wi-Fi but don’t really promote it, perhaps in order to keep user numbers down. After walking outside to get a view of McCovey Cove and the kayaks waiting for home-run balls to clear the park’s fences for a “splash landing,” I found a spot with almost zero connectivity — in the standing-room-only area backed up against the wall overlooking the bay.

With a Wi-Fi reading of 0.93/2.23 on the Verizon device and a 0.94/3.24 on Verizon 4G the SRO perch on the promenade was easily the poorest connection I found all day. But looking around, it’s kind of a silly place to be looking at your phone since from one direction a well-hit ball might be landing on your head and in the other direction there’s great views of the San Franicsco Bay. But still it does go to show that even in the most-connected stadium perhaps on earth, it’s not easy to get a signal everywhere. With no roof overhead and no railings close by, there simply isn’t a place to put an antenna out there. (But I bet Schlough and team will soon come up with a solution.)

Concourses covered, and upper deck too

I kept wandering around the outfield concourse and found decent connectivity at the centerfield Coors Light bar, 9.32/17.31 for Wi-Fi on the Verizon device and 14.21/43.00 for Wi-Fi on the AT&T device, as well as outside the Giants’ social media cafe in left-center, 14.32/32.20 for Wi-Fi on the Verizon device and 13.61/34.70 for Wi-Fi on the AT&T phone. Unless you’re a Wi-Fi geek like me you probably won’t ever see the APs since they are painted to match the structures they’re attached to. But I could see multiple APs hanging off the centerfield scoreboard structure, a piece of architecture that helps to deliver such solid connectivity to the open outside areas.

You can see Wi-FI APs -- if you know where to look.

You can see Wi-FI APs — if you know where to look.

Taking a break in a standing area behind the left field foul pole I got a smoking result for Wi-Fi on the Verizon phone, 22.46 Mbps on the download side and an amazing 52.05 on the upload. (I think it’s important to note that some of the best signals were on a device from an AT&T competitor, a sign that the facility does a great job of ensuring that any customer will get a good signal, no matter where you purchased your phone or service plan.) Climbing the stairwells to the view deck I still got a good signal on the concourse behind the seats in upper left field — 7.24/8.75 on the Verizon phone.

Since it was getting windy and cold (summer in SF!) I ducked back inside and found an empty seat in section 332, near the upper left field corner of the park. There I got a Verizon Wi-Fi mark of 17.52/24.33, and a Verizon 4G LTE mark of 5.62/6.81, again showing that the AT&T Park DAS is also delivering solid performance for customers on other carriers. The AT&T phone at that location saw 12.46/18.79 on Wi-Fi and 12.68/17.06 on 4G LTE. According to Schlough, the AT&T neutral-host DAS, which uses CommScope ION equipment, is so good that many fans don’t even bother to switch their phones to Wi-Fi. The upper deck, or view level, is scheduled to get many of the APs slated for installation this summer, in the under-the-seat enclosures that bring the network right into the seating areas.

Conclusion: Like the Giants, AT&T Park is tough to beat

Here at MSR we get the question a lot — “what’s the park with the best network?” — and I would have to say that like its tenants, AT&T Park is tough to beat. Schlough and the impressive IT team down at AT&T Stadium have a friendly rivalry, and you can’t have the most-connected discussion without mentioning Levi’s Stadium. But the park that did Wi-Fi first continues to improve year in and year out, never resting on its historic laurels. That’s a “dynasty” that is perhaps as impressive as the one built by the team on the field.

(More AT&T Park visit pictures below)

A little hard to see, but if you look closely you can see the Giants showing fan social media posts on the big screen.

A little hard to see, but if you look closely you can see the Giants showing fan social media posts on the big screen.

These signs are up all over the park

These signs are up all over the park

EchoBOT enclosures (white) next to a Wi-FI AP

EchoBOT enclosures (white) next to a Wi-FI AP

View from the Coors Light concourse walk-up bar in center field

View from the Coors Light concourse walk-up bar in center field

Good connectivity here in left field. Maybe the buttons on the hat improved reception?

Good connectivity here in left field. Maybe the buttons on the hat improved reception?

MLB app ads greet you as you walk up the stairs at AT&T Park

MLB app ads greet you as you walk up the stairs at AT&T Park

Nice place for a ballpark, don't you think?

Nice place for a ballpark, don’t you think?

For Giants fans only: I swear that thing weighs about 3 pounds

For Giants fans only: I swear that thing weighs about 3 pounds

MSR editor Paul Kapustka, your man on the Wi-Fi scene.

MSR editor Paul Kapustka, your man on the Wi-Fi scene.

New Report: Baseball AND Soccer stadium tech updates

MLB_Thumb_2015MOBILE SPORTS REPORT is pleased to announce the second issue in our second year of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series, which includes a focus on baseball and soccer stadium technology deployments, and team-by-team coverage of technology deployments for all 30 MLS teams — AND all 20 MLS teams.

Download your free copy today!

We spent a long time getting this longest-ever report ready, but if you want to get an update on MLB’s Wi-Fi everywhere plan, which is almost complete, we have the most information anywhere about the strategy and the results.

Inside the report — our longest ever — our editorial coverage includes:

— Kauffman Stadium profile: The benefits of Wi-Fi installed before the surprise World Series run by the Kansas City Royals.

— In-depth profiles of new technology deployments at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, and at the new Avaya Stadium for soccer in San Jose.

— MLB stadium tech research: This editorial research provides a technology update and analysis for stadiums used by all 30 MLB teams, gauging the level of deployment of Wi-Fi and DAS.

— MSR exclusive stadium tech analysis: The report also includes an exclusive interview with MLBAM’s Joe Inzerillo, architect of the “Wi-Fi everywhere” plan MLB is completing this season.

Download your free copy today!

NBA stadium tech reports — NBA East, Atlantic Division

Editor’s note: The following team-by-team capsule reports of NBA stadium technology deployments are an excerpt from our most recent Stadium Tech Report, THE HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE. To get all the capsules in one place as well as our featured reports, interviews and analysis, download your free copy of the full report today.

Reporting by Chris Gallo

NBA EAST: Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics
TD Bank Garden
Seating capacity: 18,624
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS:Yes

The “new” TD Garden unveiled the first signs of a 2-year $70 million renovation project this past fall. Renovations include new concessions, touch-screen directory displays on the concourses, and Cisco’s Connected Stadium Wi-Fi and StadiumVision for digital displays. As TD Garden turns 20 years old, it’s maturing to connect fans better than ever before.

The Celtics are co-tenants with the Boston Bruins, and the two storied franchises share over 400 Wi-Fi antennas throughout the Garden. The Bruins are even placing Wi-Fi hot spots in the boards around the ice during hockey games. And Celtics and Bruins fans can easily find food and beverage locations using the TD Garden app. Phase II of the renovation will tip off this summer.

Screen shot 2015-04-14 at 9.41.05 AM
Brooklyn Nets
Barclays Center
Seating capacity: 17,732
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS: Yes

With rumors swirling that majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov plans to sell the team, the Brooklyn Nets still call one of the most connected arenas in all of sports home. With Wi-Fi, DAS, and Cisco’s StadiumVision products (including StadiumVision Mobile, which brings live action to handheld devices), Nets fans are already well connected at home games.

This season Brooklyn is bringing fans even closer, as the Barclays Center is one the first NBA arenas to experiment with beaconing technology. The Barclays Center is using beacons to communicate and keep fans engaged at all times. For example, as fans enter the arena, the beacons can alert them of seat upgrades at discounted rates. In its third year of existence, the Barclays Center continues to make noise in stadium technology.

New York Knicks
Madison Square Garden
Seating capacity: 19,812
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS: Yes

Despite only turning in nine wins by the end of January, the New York Knicks still ranked in the top five in attendance in the NBA. A big reason why is the Knicks’ legendary home, Madison Square Garden. The second oldest arena in basketball knows its will always be an attraction for fans. And fresh off a $1 billion dollar renovation that boosted LTE-DAS and Wi-Fi access, Madison Square Garden was again in the national spotlight, hosting this year’s 64th NBA All-Star Game.

Philadelphia 76ers
Wells Fargo Center
Seating capacity: 20,328
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS: Yes

Entering its 19th year, the Wells Fargo Center is prepared to make renovations to keep Sixers’ and Flyers’ fans happy. As the majority owner of the franchise, Comcast is slated to release boosted Xfinity Wi-Fi signals and hot spots throughout the arena in 2015. More improvements that include a refresh of club and suite levels, and wider concourses are rumored for 2016.

Toronto Raptors
Air Canada Centre
Seating capacity: 19,800
Wi-Fi: Yes DAS: Yes

After being selected to host the 2016 NBA All-Star Game, Air Canada Centre is on tap to get more renovations. Tim Leiweke, president and CEO of the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd. group, estimates to spend around $40 million to enhance the Raptors’ and Maple Leafs’ home arena. Upgrades to both Wi-Fi and DAS, plus the third scoreboard since the arena has opened in 1999, are listed as major enhancements. With the Raptors on pace to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year, the improvements will be welcomed.

Stadium Tech Report: Wireless connectivity brings fans and business benefits to the Palace at Auburn Hills

The Palace at Auburn Hills. Credit all photos, Palace at Auburn Hills (click on any photo for a larger image).

The Palace at Auburn Hills. Credit all photos, Palace at Auburn Hills (click on any photo for a larger image).

Not too long ago, a marketing executive who was new to the Detroit Pistons’ ownership team tried to post a tweet during a game at the Palace of Auburn Hills. But to get the message to send, he had to … step outside the building.

Fast forward a few years, and the situation is completely reversed. Not only is there a storm of wireless connectivity inside the Palace, that same Wi-Fi and cellular traffic is keeping fans inside, bringing new fans in and giving the Pistons management team better insight into what all those fans want.

Using technology as an “accelerant,” the Pistons have changed the game for the fans and for themselves, seeding a process that seems destined to help the team build business success as their fan base evolves into one that expects and delights from an always-connected experience.

In a story-telling twist, we’ll tell you one of the early ends to this tale now: Even though the Pistons have suffered on the court of late, finishing the 2013-14 season with a 29-53 record, the team this year had a season ticket renewal rate above 80 percent, according to the Pistons management. Either there’s massive optimism in Motor City, or the Pistons ownership team is doing something very right in making the game-day experience something fans want to keep experiencing.

If you want to believe more in the latter reason, then listen to what Dennis Mannion, president and CEO of Palace Sports and Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons, has to say: There are a lot of smart programs now in place and some that are just starting to take off, but none of it happens, he said, without a solid communications core.

“It always comes back to the great accelerator, technology,” Mannion said.

Building the network inside the building

Editor’s note: This profile is part of our new Stadium Tech Report HOOPS AND HOCKEY ISSUE, available for free download. In addition to this story it contains additional profiles and team-by-team tech capsules for all 30 NBA teams. Download your copy today!

Mannion, who joined the Pistons in 2011 following a long career in sports management that included time as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ president and COO, and stints with the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia Phillies, said the new commitment to technology started at the Pistons’ ownership level, where they knew things needed to change.

“When I came in to the job we knew there needed to be some technology improvements [at the Palace],” Mannion said. “We needed to make games more of a happening for our fans.” As part of an overall stadium renovation project that cost somewhere between $13 and $15 million, the Pistons started bringing the Palace into the world of wireless connectivity.

Screen shot of Pistons app

Screen shot of Pistons app

For help, Mannion and the Palace team enlised a Detroit sports-stadium technology consulting firm called Nuvuz Sports, run by CEO Scott Wruble, a former tech exec with the NBA and MLB, and chief marketing officer Jim Wolski. According to Wolski, when the technology revamp of the Palace started in 2012, there was a bit of a connectivity hill to climb.

“The entire building had nine cable modems, total,” Wolski said.

The first step was to start with a DAS, or distributed antenna system, to make sure cellular carriers could connect with their customers. The Palace team wound up picking Verizon Wireless to act as lead on a neutral-host DAS deployment, which is currently in the process of adding AT&T and Sprint to its system.

Opened in 1988, the Palace had some physical challenges when it came to wireless technology, including the omnipresent question of retrofits — where do you put the DAS head end? In the Palace’s case, the solution was a new building built outside, in a Palace parking lot.

Verizon helped on the next step in the deployment process by bringing in their longtime technology partner Ericsson to deliver the gear for the building’s Wi-Fi network. Though somewhat of a newcomer in the stadium Wi-Fi space, Ericsson’s long history in telecommunications equipment showed through with the Wi-Fi deployment, according to Mike Donnay, vice president for brand networks at Palace Sports & Entertainment.

“The performance from the Ericsson [Wi-Fi] equipment is super high,” said Donnay, who was the exec who had to leave the building to send the tweet before the renovation happened. Now, with 238 Wi-Fi access points in the venue (which seats 22,076 for basketball) Donnay doesn’t have any problems tweeting.

Nuvuz’s Wolski said that in addition to providing fan Internet access, the internal Wi-Fi network also powers the game-day ticketing operation as well as concession point of sale. It also is the base for a large suite of fan engagement platforms, which are hyper-targeted to the many different types of Pistons or other event fans who walk in the doors.

Clusters within the clusters

Kevin Grigg, vice president of public relations for the Pistons, said Mannion’s “big picture” ROI is to use technology to engage fans in a one-on-one relationship.

“The biggest challenge [in the past] has been if you are a fan and you buy a ticket, we didn’t know who you are,” Grigg said. “Now, we’re in a position to identify people during the engagement.”

Nuvuz’s Wolski concurs.

“It chages the game when you know who they [the fans] are,” Wolski said.

Mannion said the Pistons’ IT team is already well into the implementation of an elaborate fan-engagement system that breaks the fan base into multiple segments that can each be targeted with programs tailored to their wants and needs.

palace2a“We have different fan bases, from those who buy courtside seats, to those in corprate suites to families,” Mannion said. “We have affinity groups, like ‘future Pistons,’ women’s groups, and people interested mainly in attending concerts. We have clusters within clusters. And we use a combination of media, memories and merchandise for each cluster.”

On the team side, Mannion said that “even perceived ‘inside access’ is a real turn-on. Fans like to join, belong and brag.” Some ways fans can get “closer” to the team is to use the stadium app’s seat-upgrade feature (powered by partner PogoSeat) to purchase seats closer to the action, or by special access like post-game shootarounds on the court floor.

There is also a big focus on Pistons-related content, both from the team as well as from fans themselves. And increasingly, fans are turning to social media to share this content. The Pistons have responded with tricks like putting selfies tagged with the #pistonspride hashtag right onto the new huge center court video board.

The tech team also just added beacon technology to the Palace, and are already offering beacon-powered features like seat upgrades to fans who have seats in the upper levels, and discounts on merchandise to fans who are walking right outside the team shops. There are also scoreboard trivia contests and real-time fan polling, all of which keep fans engaged with the team and game even as they stare at their mobile devices.

“We wouldn’t be able to do all this without a connected arena,” Donnay said.

Connected now and for the future

Right now, Donnay said that approximately one-third of a regular Pistons game audience uses the Wi-Fi network, a take rate among the higher of reported crowd participation numbers. The Palace team also uses the Wi-Fi network to connect to 30 “smart carts,” which are mobile food carts that can be moved around (even outside the building) to take advantage of being where hungry fans are.

“It’s interesting to watch the heat maps of how the building is filling, and being able to tell concessions where to beef up,” Mannion said. In the past, he noted, many such game-day operations were decided by “gut feelings,” which could be right or could be wrong. Now, he said, there are facts and figures to back up the guesswork.

“Now you can still act on gut feelings, but you also have ways to prove what’s going on,” Mannion said. “You can do a digital promotion for food and beverage, and immediately measure the impact. That’s really fascinating.”

Even as they build on early successes, the team behind the Palace’s new tech operations knows that these are early days, and much work lies ahead. One current “big drag,” Mannion notes, is the plethora of social-media sharing platforms, a mix that includes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and others, almost too many to track coherently.

There’s also a big challenge to keep pace with all the potential partners and digital features that could be added, like instant replays or food ordering for the stadium app; Mannion noted: “The question is, how do you create the right kind of [feature] incubation system, without spending too much money?”

At the very least, the Pistons team has grabbed a leading position in the connected-arena future, one where having advanced connectivity and engagement programs is table stakes to attract new potential season ticket buyers.

“We’ve seen colleges experience heartaches” when their fans leave because the stadiums don’t have connectivity, said Donney. “That’s the fan base that’s coming to the NBA. They’re going to expect that technology, so we’re going to have to be very good at it.”

So far, the Pistons and the Palace seem to be ahead of the curve of the new era of connected stadiums and the fans who fill them. Mannion, for one, knows he’s now in a much different business than the one he’s spent most of his career in.

“It’s a lot different now,” he said, “than just opening up the window and selling tickets.”