Venue Technology Summit: Marlins Park Fuses Fan Entertainment, IT Convergence
With a left-field nightclub straight out of South Beach, a custom-built contemporary-art installation marking each Marlins home run and victory, and a color palette as limitless as it is bright, Marlins Park isn’t your grandparents’ — or even, your parents’ — ballpark. The Marlins’ new home in Miami’s Little Havana is truly a new-era ballpark, reflecting its city and anticipating the future of the fan experience.
More than 130 industry leaders traveled to Miami for SVG’s annual Sports Venue Technology Summit at Marlins Park on Oct. 23. Attendees were treated to a behind-the-scenes look at the technology deployed at the stadium: visits to the control room, truck bay, and data center were followed by an afternoon of panel discussions and presentations on the latest trends in multiscreen video, in-venue connectivity, and control-room design.
Of the numerous trends in venue design discussed on the tour, the growing convergence of game presentation, broadcast, and information technology was top of mind for team personnel when building Marlins Park. David Enriquez, director of IT for the Marlins, discussed the relationship between his department and that helmed by Larry Blocker, director of game presentation and events.
“Larry and his guys have a job to do that is completely different from our job, but our job is to support what they do and how they do it within the infrastructure,” says Enriquez. “We’ve learned a lot in the last three years building this ballpark, that we can’t be islands. … The island approach is quickly going away, and if you’re still stuck in the island world, you’re going to fall behind because it’s not a matter of broadcast guys giving up rights and capabilities to IT people. It’s IT people being able to provide infrastructure so you can grow your broadcast environment.”
That emphasis on convergence extends to the truck bay (which can accommodate six trucks and is supported by Level 3’s Vyvx fiber network), the extensive network of video displays, and, especially, the control room. From the 101- x 51-ft. Daktronics display in right center field to the outfield wall displays to the ribbon boards, no fewer than 17 individual video displays are visible in the bowl. Outside the bowl, more than 700 Sony TV sets paired with Enseo HD3000 set-top boxes on a converged network constitute the ballpark’s IPTV system.
Marlins Park, which opened in March, is home to one of the largest control rooms in Major League Baseball. Located on the third-base side of press level, the control room, integrated by Alpha Video, contains a Sony MVS7000 production switcher; an eight-channel EVS system with IPDirector; two Chyron LEX3 graphics engines and a Click Effects Crossfire system; Harris video-, audio-, and data-routing technology; and Harris and Ross Video terminal gear.
Five Avid Media Composer stations serve the team’s editing needs, and an Avid Interplay provides asset management. The Marlins recently purchased a StorageDNA system for long-term archive.
A machine room stores processing equipment and the signal cabling that connects the main production room to various wired-camera locations throughout the stadium. In-stadium video is captured by a complement of Sony HD wired and wireless cameras, and in-stadium communications are facilitated by a Riedel intercom system.
Alpha Video also integrated the Marlins’ video coaching room. Known as “The Lab,” the room handles all the video used for coaching purposes. The Lab provides viewing stations for players and coaches to check out video during and after the game, as well as an interactive area where players can work on mechanics. One of the most innovative stops on the tour, The Lab shows how far technology has come in a few short years.
“We started with VHS tapes,” laughs Video Coordinator Cullen McCrae. “You’d have a guy come in here during the game, I’d hand him his tape, he’d push it in and hit play, and, by the time he was able to look at his video, the inning’s almost over. Then, we went to DVD. Now we’re saving everything on hard drives: we’re dialing up databases, we’re creating filters. Now it’s at your fingertips.”
Not to be forgotten, in-venue connectivity figured prominently in the tour and during the afternoon panels. Marlins Park offers free WiFi to fans, supported by 217 access points spaced throughout the stadium, and a distributed antenna system built and managed by ExteNet Systems.
Speaking to a tour in the Marlins’ data center, Enriquez described the challenges of supporting future technologies. Three years ago, when the Marlins broke ground on their $515 million stadium, the iPad had not yet been invented. The connectivity-capacity model of today may not be able to satisfy fans tomorrow, requiring those building venues now to anticipate the needs of the future.
“At the end of the day, what I want you to take away from here is, the model that we’ve built on convergence is something that you can build on,” says Enriquez. “The next stadium [can] … take what we’ve done and take it to the next level.”