STA­DIA, LESS STAID

Our sport­ing venues may fi­nally be open­ing their eyes to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of tech­nol­ogy, but Amer­ica is leagues ahead…

Australian T3 - - OPINION -

There’s been a bit of a back­lash against the in­flux of con­sumer tech at sport­ing events re­cently. We like to think we’re pro­gres­sive, but we have noth­ing on our friends in the good ol’ US of A.

Hon­estly, you’d prob­a­bly think there’d be lit­tle point of­fer­ing fans free Wi-Fi to Amer­i­can sports pa­trons. How are they sup­posed to op­er­ate touch­screens, with a foam fin­ger oc­cu­py­ing one hand and a base­ball bat-sized hot­dog in the other?

I jest not, by the way. ‘The Boom­stick’ is a real food item served at Texas Rangers games. It’s two-feet long, weighs 3lbs, is cov­ered in chilli and some­thing a bit like what you in Aus­tralia would call ‘cheese’, costs $26 and is awe­some. USA! USA! USA! Any­way, I di­gress.

The con­nected sta­dium ex­pe­ri­ence is al­ready much fur­ther along here than any­where else – and its un­de­ni­ably en­hanc­ing the fan ex­pe­ri­ence rather than de­tract­ing from it.

The first arena pur­pose-built to take care of your ev­ery wire­less whim is the brand new home of the San Francisco 49ers, the Levi’s Sta­dium in Santa Clara, Cal­i­for­nia.

This $1.3 bil­lion sports hall has fi­bre­op­tic in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity through­out, with an in­cred­i­ble 40Gbps ca­pac­ity. There are 12,000 Wi-Fi ac­cess points for vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing 600 re­ceivers placed un­der the seats, and 400 miles of web-re­lated ca­bling.

At a pre-sea­son game, the net­work served up 2.1TB of data and at one point 20,000 peo­ple were con­nected simultaneously. Now, in the reg­u­lar sea­son, it’s stand­ing up to the de­mands of 68,000-strong crowds. And if at­ten­dees have any prob­lems, 60 ‘NiNerd’ tech pro­fes­sion­als are on hand to as­sist with con­nec­tiv­ity is­sues. Tech support at a god­damn ball­game!

The Levi’s Sta­dium app, mean­while, of­fers mo­bile tick­et­ing and park­ing passes, with food and bev­er­age or­ders de­liv­ered to your seat in a mat­ter of min­utes, so you’re not miss­ing the game while wait­ing in line for another $10.25 craft beer.

On-de­mand re­plays are avail­able from mul­ti­ple an­gles, too, along­side all of the lat­est stats in the Game Cen­tre part of the app. You can even watch the game live on your de­vice, while one of 1,700 Blue­tooth bea­cons guide you to the ‘rest room’ with the short­est line.

Oh, and if you end up spend­ing too much time watch­ing back touch­down re­plays, you can re­plen­ish your de­vice’s life force at one of the sta­dium’s 200 charg­ing sta­tions.

All in all, Sil­i­con Val­ley’s home side is en route to per­fect mo­bile in­te­gra­tion, adding real value to the game day ex­pe­ri­ence. In the process the 49ers are mak­ing us Aussies look like – aha haha! – 1949ers. Ha.

It’s easy to see why die-hard footy fans would be­moan iPad wankers clog­ging up their sta­dium – or idiots tak­ing self­ies or check­ing in on Face­book in­stead of watch­ing the ac­tion. It’s part of the dif­fer­ence be­tween Aus­tralian and Amer­i­can sports.

In a free-flow­ing game like AFL, mess­ing with your phone means miss­ing the game – and not sup­port­ing the team. That’s not the case in the more stop-start sports Yanks favour. You need some­thing else to do in the reg­u­lar breaks, and there are only so many times you can wist­fully gawp at cheer­lead­ers with­out get­ting busted.

CHRIS SMITH

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