MLS’s Earthquakes Transform Fan Experience With Cloud-Enabled Avaya Stadium
When the San Jose Earthquakes played their final game in Buck Shaw Stadium (a nil-nil draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Oct. 18), the 10,300-seat venue had just celebrated its 50th anniversary — and was showing its age. Located on the campus of Santa Clara University, the venue had no video-control room and only minimal broadcast infrastructure, enough to transmit the broadcast feed from the truck directly to the videoboard.
To say that the Earthquakes were in need of an upgrade would be an understatement. And dismissing Avaya Stadium — the Earthquakes’ new home — as simply an upgrade is the biggest understatement of all.
Avaya Stadium, which hosted its first Earthquakes match on March 22 (a 2-1 victory over Chicago Fire), seats 18,000 and is the first cloud-enabled stadium in Major League Soccer.
“[Being cloud-enabled] means we’re always connected,” explains Jed Mettee, VP, marketing and communications, San Jose Earthquakes. “It makes us more nimble [in adding] technology. We can add technology through the cloud as opposed to doing physical installations if we need to, so it makes us more able to adapt to changing technology as we grow.”
According to the team, Earthquakes fans reap the benefits of the cloud-enabled stadium through the Avaya Stadium mobile app, which offers such features as mobile ticketing and parking passes, stadium and player information, social-media integration, and the ability to enter the building and purchase concessions. Ruckus Wireless installed more than 150 access points to create a free, public WiFi network; a distributed antenna system from Mobilitie is still in the works.
“We launched this app at the beginning of our season this year,” says Mettee, “but we’re already working on Avaya Stadium App 2.0 with Avaya’s help to make [it] even stronger as we grow.”
With a new Daktronics videoboard to populate, the Earthquakes have moved from a mobile production unit parked outside the stadium into their own in-venue video-control room integrated by Diversified Systems. Located in the south end zone, the room houses a Sony MVS-3000 production switcher, Click Effects CrossFire clip server, NewTek 3Play 6-channel replay server, Daktronics Show Control, Midas audio mixer, Sony monitoring, and Evertz terminal gear.
The team also added a Sony PMW-320K camcorder and IMT microLite RF camera system to complement the broadcast feed originating from the truck compound, which sits next to the control room and can fit three full-size production trucks and, if needed, three satellite trucks.
Because the Earthquakes’ in-venue show comes from a low number of sources (and the Sony switcher can accommodate up to 32 inputs), the team decided not to install a router. Rather, the team patches a 1080i baseband-video feed from the broadcast truck through converters and embedders and into the switcher to playout to the main Daktronics display. And with plenty of fiber surrounding Avaya Stadium, content captured from the team’s two in-venue cameras is also fed to the truck dock before proceeding through the same workflow.
The new Daktronics main display, which faces the seating bowl, measures 120 ft. wide x 24 ft. high, and features 13HD technology. An additional 44- x 24-ft. video display was installed on the backside of the main display for fans entering the stadium. With seating on three sides, Avaya Stadium has an open area behind the videoboard, where fans can congregate and still see a videoboard.
“It’s the focus of your attention,” says Mettee. “It’s not just part of the stadium; you’re not missing that video display.”
In addition, Daktronics provided two 20-mm ribbon displays — one measuring 982 ft. long x 2 ft. high, the other stretching 150 x 4.5 ft. — for sponsored elements, game information, and additional statistics.
The team added 15 coax-connected digital displays throughout the concourse, each encased in redwood. Adjacent to the control room is a fan-engagement wall comprising six digital screens displaying fan-created social-media posts, videos, and photos through the team’s partnership with technology provider Avaya and social-media aggregator Postano. Rounding out the team’s in-venue–video strategy, the team opted for an MATV to connect displays in each luxury suite and the club areas.
“We have, I think, the cleanest concourse of any stadium I’ve been to: there [aren’t] many fixed signs, just video,” says Mettee. “It’s pretty nice to walk along. It’s pretty clean, and those video displays are very vibrant, especially at night. You can rotate different things in. They’re very interactive and more dynamic than a static board.”
All photos courtesy of the San Jose Earthquakes