Dallas Cowboys Test Out Fan-Engagement Tech at The Star

Sports/entertainment complex features Panasonic digital video, networked signage

High school football players from eight schools in Frisco, TX, are getting training that few their age can boast: they’re gaining the media savvy of pro players, who regularly look up from the field and see their heroic moves (and fumbles) replayed on a gigantic videoboard. Granted, they’re also learning what it’s like to play on NFL-standard turf under the brightest of Friday-night lights before heading back to luxe locker rooms and their own dedicated training room, press area, and coaches’ offices. But, even in the selfie era, nothing beats seeing yourself in 4K on 2,270 sq. ft. of pixels, the largest videoboard in high school sports.

At the Ford Center at The Star, an indoor stadium in this small city just north of Dallas, parents and classmates of these lucky teens also have the opportunity to revel in full game-day video spectacle. From the moment they see the mega display above the gates and stroll past eight towering video pylons, glancing up at the 1,770-sq.-ft. LED videoboard and 450-ft. fascia displays inside and finding their way with plenty of networked digital signage, Frisco fans’ visits are curated by none other than the Dallas Cowboys, with technology by Panasonic.

The Star is a stadium at the heart of the Ford Center sports and entertainment center in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

A partnership between the NFL team and the City of Frisco extends to Frisco ISD the use of this 12,000-seat stadium at the heart of a massive complex comprising team offices, practice facilities, and some serious full-scale video brand-activations to rival any major stadium. When the schools want to bring dazzling audiovisual spectacle to football, soccer, marching-band competitions, or graduation day, they have the option of the Ford Center.

But the pro-level training doesn’t stop there. The Ford Center is just one part of the 91-acre campus that is The Star. Playing on the indoor field or practicing on the two outdoor fields there, student-athletes get a preview of the fan experience that awaits them if they make it big in college football or the NFL. The game and the stadium are at the center of entertainment districts that offer dining, retail, hotels, corporate facilities, and, in this case, a healthcare center focused on sports medicine.

The grandeur of the experience was one of the core initiatives driving the design process when the Cowboys decided to locate their headquarters and training facilities in The Star. “They wanted to provide a platform for student-athletes to learn about the sports world, [to] experience what it’s like to play on a collegiate or professional level,” says Lori Cloonan, director, sports and entertainment sensory solutions, Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Co.

The organization also wanted to drive revenue throughout the year with attractions beyond sports, including concerts and community events. “This is a trend that’s happening in most of the major markets,” she explains. “Teams are building entertainment districts around stadiums and arenas. It’s all about engaging the fans so they come to a game or an event and stay longer — visiting restaurants, shopping, and maybe staying the night in a hotel. They wanted to make it a destination, and give back to the community as well.”

Essentially, The Star is a proving ground for the fan-engagement theory that audience experience begins on the drive to the stadium and ends with the ride home. Hopefully, the journey was expedited by Panasonic’s 480-sq.-ft. highway-adjacent video screens planted around the perimeter of the complex.

The Dallas Cowboys HQ and practice facilities are located in the Ford Center.

When fans enter the parking lot, the engagement goes up a notch. Tying The Star venues together and offering the option of blanket rebranding for events or massive moments of exclusivity, 200-plus networked Panasonic flat-panel displays work in conjunction with Panasonic digital-signage systems and interactive kiosks.

Content design for the multitude of screens makes optimal use of each visual and interactive channel, so the wayfinding, branding, and kiosks tell a continuous story. Families looking for a place to eat can query a kiosk for suggestions and learn where kid-friendly restaurants are located, how long it takes to walk there, and what specials are offered. Then they simply follow digital signs to their destination. The search options were designed with the intention of “providing the guest with the best possible experience,” Cloonan says. Guests can also receive customized recommendations via The Star app.

This immersive effect also provides a positive experience from a revenue perspective. Once Panasonic helps customize content to an overall marketing mission, and visual messaging is delivered across the various video outputs, The Star’s marketing team can use analytics to evaluate data on customer dwell time and response rates to promotions.

The campus-wide experience offered at The Star will likely be seen in other markets with stadium and arena construction and renovation intended to improve the fan experience.

Cloonan notes that, from the start, today’s sports-venue design meetings often center on what new attractions can be built for the selfie age: “They’re asking for the latest and greatest technology. They want the wow factor; they want it to be exciting. Every time I walk into a meeting, we’re talking about innovations, what [can be done] to make sure the fan experience or guest experience one that hasn’t been done before.”

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