Another fantastic SEAT Conference – this year with the memory of Kansas City BBQ lingering on our clothes…
For the uninitiated, SEAT (Sports & Entertainment Alliance in Technology) is all about stadium and arena technology, and the people charged with improving the fan experience and business performance by leveraging technology.
By far one of my favorite industry events, SEAT is the brainchild of Christine Stoffel and Chris Dill, two sports technology executives with a ton of high-profile industry experience. It’s a cross between an endless social hour, stadium tours and classroom learning.
Where SEAT excels is affording the opportunity to get deeper into what is and isn’t working with stadium technology deployments.
(See our photos below)
Perhaps the most revelatory (and almost comical) moments was hearing a panelist say, “We don’t want this to become another DAS and Wi-Fi panel, but…”
Simply stated, none of the “wizz-bang” technology and business analytics work well without robust cellular and Wi-Fi.
Attendees had the chance to see four very different sports venues (indoor versus outdoor; stadium versus arena seating capacity; rectangular versus diamond playing field; etc.) to illustrate that technology deployments at sports and entertainment venues are anything but cookie-cutter.
An outlier we met during the conference is Sporting Innovations which is taking the lead in driving sports technology integration and the fan experience. They combine a marquee on-field product (Sporting Kansas City, one of the 10 charter members of Major League Soccer and formerly known as the Kansas City Wiz) with a marquee venue (Sporting Park, the most technologically-advanced MLS stadium) to form a “live lab” for technology innovation with their key partners. From 500 season ticket holders to over 14,000 in less than 4 years says something about fan engagement and how to create an “it” venue. Check out this BusinessWeek article for more information.
By engaging the top IT decision-makers and influencers from teams across the NFL, Major League Baseball, NBA, NASCAR, NHL, MLS and the NCAA, SEAT similarly attracts executives from key technology players who all bring their A-game.
Perhaps the most candid moment was the gauntlet thrown down by Chad Townes from AT&T who told the audience of stadium owners that AT&T no longer had an interest in funding Wi-Fi deployments. Mr. Townes pointed out that once AT&T builds a DAS, they have no need for Wi-Fi since they can handle data capacity without any offload.
In our numerous discussions with wireless operators and venue owners, it’s clear that Wi-Fi and the question of funding it has become a major-league sticking point. For instance, there are consultants who are growing their practice by “selling” venues on the promise that carriers will fund venue-owned Wi-Fi.
Big changes are coming, as evidenced by the way in which Sporting Innovations has raised the bar. Team apps, fan loyalty, social media, on-site ticket upgrades and more all require connectivity, and venues are working hard to figure out how to fund this critical infrastructure.
From an architecture perspective, stadiums are running short on space for head-end equipment.
Truth be told, most stadiums were never designed to accommodate cellular base stations. And because spectrum requirements continue to increase and carriers are choosing to deploy backup power to the head-end and remote locations, the amount of gear to support wireless communications is also increasing in size.
Hoteling is – and will – become a key trend to address head-end space constraints in stadiums. This opens the doors to new opportunities for innovation of gear having a smaller footprint as well as transport solutions between the BTS hotel and stadium.
Lastly, our week in Kansas City reinforced that reality that no one knows for sure how bandwidth will be required to create the ultimate “connected” stadium experience nor what emerging technology will look like.
Therefore, stadiums must evaluate technology and architecture that is flexible and scalable to enable them to be ready for anything, including new public-safety and cellular frequency bands being released into the market.
For a snapshot of how teams are deploying technology – including wireless – to both improve the fan experience while helping to increase business opportunities, check out the State of the Stadium Technology Survey from Mobile Sports Report.
What are the most technologically-advanced stadiums and how are they elevating the fan experience?
How are smaller, arena-sized venues responding to the needs of the connected fan?
DAS, In-Building Wireless, SEAT 2013, Solid Technologies, Sports & Entertainment Alliance in Technology, Sports Venues, WiFi Offload