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