Baylor’s New McLane Stadium Preps for the Next 63 Years of Bears Football
There’s no rest for the weary on the campus of Baylor University, and that’s just fine with the university’s BaylorVision team and IT department. A year after unveiling the 45,000-seat McLane Stadium on its Waco, TX, campus, Baylor continues to refine its production workflows and mobile app in preparation for the decades ahead.
And if the previous facility is any indication, McLane Stadium is here to stay. Floyd Casey Stadium, located about three miles from campus, opened in 1950 and hosted 63 seasons of Bears football before closing in December 2013. McLane Stadium opened just prior to the 2014 season.
Says Director of Athletic Video Production Jeromy Otter, “Our workflow at McLane is 100% better that what we had at Floyd Casey.”
BaylorVision Gets a New High-Tech Home
From the moment Baylor University’s Board of Regents voted in 2012 to construct the new stadium, the university focused on fan engagement. That focus required an eye on current technologies and an idea of what fans would want in the future.
“As we were planning three years ago, we couldn’t just say, ‘OK, what is happening [now]? Let’s make that happen in the stadium,’” says Pattie Orr, VP of information technology/chief information officer. “We had to say, ‘What will be on the cutting edge in three years? We were at Floyd Casey Stadium for over 60 years, so what will last?’ We wanted to build an infrastructure that could support every kind of electronics, throw as much fiber as possible toward it so that it could do what was possible in three years and then maybe in 63 years.”
McLane Stadium, a $266 million undertaking, features a horseshoe-shaped design that opens on the Brazos River. Baylor tapped Daktronics to design and manufacture a 15HD display measuring 47 ft. high x 107 ft. wide in the south end zone and ribbon displays that stretch around the horseshoe for a total of 1,254 ft. Daktronics also provided a fixed-digit scoreboard for score, timeouts left, down and distance, game time remaining, and quarter information.
To support the video displays, Baylor built a video-control room on the fifth floor of McLane Stadium at the north 25-yard line. The room, home to the BaylorVision athletics-video–production department and integrated by Diversified Systems, features a Ross Video 5M/E Vision switcher and BlackStorm playout server; two eight-channel, dual-user Abekas Mira instant-replay server; ChyronHego character generators; Evertz router; and RTS intercom.
Hundreds of TVs were added throughout the concourse, and, although Baylor currently runs a coax system instead of IPTV, data lines run to each of the displays for when the university decides to upgrade.
BaylorVision added five Sony HXC-300 cameras with a variety of lenses, run by Baylor students and local freelancers, as well as two robotic cameras for beauty shots and coaches video. In total, the university laid down more than 400 miles of fiber.
Says Otter, “We have more channels of replay and three more M/Es on the switcher [than before, which] allows us to cut multiple shows: one for the board, one for the concourse TVs, and one that is more of a TV broadcast that we can use as a game archive.”
Calling Replays With the Touch of a Button
Baylor also devoted a tremendous amount of time and energy to developing the Baylor In-Game App. When the process of building McLane Stadium began three years ago, Bears fans — the majority of them college students — were already dependent on their smartphones. The university assumed — correctly — that the attachment to mobile devices would only increase and would respond to a game-specific mobile app. The school even took it one step further by assuming that fans would want to access live video and, in effect, “direct their own game,” says Orr.
“Three years ago, we were saying, ‘Can we make it so we can really bring high-quality video to these mobile devices?’” she continues. “At that time, we did a lot of visiting of other stadiums, a lot of talking to the technology companies. [The technology] existed, but it wasn’t reliable, and I’m happy to tell you that, when we rolled out this year, we had reliable video to the handhelds for all fans in the stadium. It was just terrific.”
The university partnered with YinzCam to drive live camera feeds to the app. Content captured by BaylorVision’s five game cameras is fed to an onsite headend populated with YinzCam encoders, transmitted to an offsite server farm for processing, and then sent back in a single stream to onsite servers. Those streams are distributed locally to the app and can be accessed only by fans attending the game (NCAA regulations stipulate that replays can be viewed only in the venue).
“Anybody within the stadium who wants to view one of those live camera feeds, when they click on the app, they are actually getting the distribution coming from the onsite server,” explains Bob Hartland, director, IT servers and networking services, Baylor University. Because the video streams are transmitted via YinzCam equipment and processed offsite, the workflow does not weigh down the venue’s WiFi network. “The finished stream is remoted back and then distributed onsite, so it really has saved a lot on the Internet connection.”
Because the workflow involves offsite servers, some latency is involved in the live camera feeds. However, according to Baylor, a slight delay in live video actually benefits the live-game experience: fans don’t watch the game live on their phones; instead, they watch the action unfold in front of them and turn to their phones for replays.
“We’re not looking at this video offering to replace the live experience,” says Hartland. “It is there to give you different camera angles on a play or something that happened in game.”
In addition to live and on-demand video, the app offers parking assistance, aggregated social-media feeds, real-time stats and news, and photo galleries.
Keeping Fans Connected
With thousands of fans accessing the Baylor In-Game App — not to mention checking e-mail, uploading photos to Facebook, and tweeting — the university invested in a robust WiFi network from Extreme Networks (formerly Enterasys) and a distributed antenna system with AT&T. According to Hartland, McLane Stadium averages about 2 TB of data per game across its WiFi and DAS.
Baylor employs a staff of students from the Hankamer School of Business to serve as WiFi coaches to help fans log into the WiFi and download the app. Clad in neon vests, the students roam the venue to help fans navigate their smartphone settings, answer questions, demo app offerings, and provide customer service.
“We can deal with the infrastructure; we can deal with all the backend electronics,” says Hartland, “but it’s that personal device that has to connect.”