SBD/November 4, 2013/Facilities

Fans' Increasing Wi-Fi Demands Present Challenges For Front Offices

Increased smartphone usage at pro sports venues has "created endless possibilities for fan engagement and marketing opportunities," but also is "creating headaches as teams scramble to supply enough bandwidth to support the exploding need for Internet connectivity," according to Michael Sanserino of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZZETTE. A team can spend as much as $10M to "install the technology needed to support cellular and Wi-Fi networks in a stadium, with the virtual certainty that the technology will be obsolete within a couple of years only to need another investment in still newer networking systems that are more effective." The NFL has "instructed the league's 32 teams to install Wi-Fi in all parts of their stadiums" by '15. MLB teams are "finishing the first year of a two-year partnership" between Qualcomm and MLBAM "to survey, plan and install wireless and mobile phone networks at every ballpark." In contrast, the NHL "has not directed its teams to improve mobile connectivity." The mobile world is "shifting as smartphone users change their habits." Fans today are using bandwidth to "upload photos and videos, using much more bandwidth than three years ago when stadium data use was dominated by fans downloading scores and statistics." Despite the "expense and hassle of supporting the technology, teams have found there is a marketing advantage to having so many fans connected to the Internet." They can get "instantaneous feedback for issues that arise on and off the field," and "engage fans, asking them to upload photos that may appear on the scoreboard and Tweet updates with team-generated hashtags." Van Wagner Sports Group Senior VP Robert Jordan said, "All of the leagues have understood that having a wireless component at your stadium is no longer nice to have -- it's a requirement. It's what fans expect" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZZETTE, 11/3).
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