Digital Sports Summit: New Meadowlands’ Digital Experience Keeps Fans Off the Couch
In today’s sports landscape, stadiums are competing more and more with couches for the same eyeballs. Sports venues must compete with comprehensive coverage on TV, online, and mobile devices that have caused many fans to stay home in favor of attending a game. At SVG’s fourth-annual Digital Sports Summit on Sept. 22 in New York, New Meadowlands Stadium CTO Peter Brickman and New York Giants VP/Executive Producer Don Sperling provided an inside look at catering to digital fans while maintaining the traditional game-day experience.
“You have to admit that it’s all part of it now,” said Brickman. “Whether it’s watching the actual game or your kid checking scores on his [mobile device], it’s all part of [the game-day experience].”
Finding a Balance
Among the most difficult tasks for Brickman and Sperling was finding a happy medium between technology and football. While New Meadowlands Stadium features a wealth of cutting-edge technology and fan-focused mobile apps, Sperling’s primary job remains keeping fans as involved as possible.
“My job is to give [the Giants] a competitive advantage,” says Sterling. “It’s a culture-vs.-business decision: the culture is football, and the business is creating all these new revenue streams and digital [fan interaction]. You want your fans in there to be loud and involved in the game because that’s really the reason we got to build this stadium. I mean the only reason we got two EVS [servers] instead of one EVS is, we could show more replays that could help the team on a challenge. Finding that balance is always a challenge.”
New Meadowlands Via Mobile
The stadium is a cathedral of activity on game day, and it can be overwhelming for the average fan. Brickman sees mobile apps as the perfect navigation tool for fans to find their way to all the action taking place around the stadium.
“There’s so much going on in the stadium at any one given time — bands performing, alumni players signing autographs, concession-stand promos.” he says. “The only way to navigate all that is to have some sort of guide, which we believe the mobile apps can be. So we’re using that as the entry point and one of the navigation points more and more. We’re still learning about it all, but I see it as a very valuable tool.”
Wi-Fi for All
New Meadowlands has also made Wi-Fi and cellular access a top priority, and Brickman says the stadium will roll out a more secure and user-friendly certificate program for logging on to the Wi-Fi network in the next few weeks. This is expected to create more-personalized marketing and information services targeted at on-site fans.
In addition, New Meadowlands has partnered with Cisco and Verizon to explore the potential of high-density Wi-Fi at the stadium.
“Wi-Fi is definitely the next distribution vehicle, and we are learning a great deal about this new concept of high-density Wi-Fi,” says Brickman. “Basically, [high-density Wi-Fi] is, when you focus on a specific zone and you essentially double the amount of access points in the [stadium] bowl. That really gives an infinite amount of bandwidth available to the Wi-Fi device.
Not Just for the Fans
The Wi-Fi network also plays a major role in stadium operations. Motorola helped develop a two-way digital device that allows ushers and guest-services personnel to communicate issues or questions with the click of a button.
“At the old stadium, they just had a pager device where they would just press a button and it would let you know there was an issue, but you didn’t know what it was,” says Brickman. “If there is an issue or questions in the stands now, this is two-way, and it’s part of the Wi-Fi so they can all communicate.”
Getting Fans to the Stadium
Despite the growing number of couch-friendly viewers, Brick believes the on-site experience will always win out — especially when digital add-ons like video and mobile apps are incorporated.
“There’s nothing like going to a game and experiencing that community. It can make a fan for life,” says Brickman. “When a father brings his kid to the game and that game is amazing, all of the sudden, that child is a fan for life. That combined with the digital experience is only possible at a live game.”