SBD/June 25, 2014/Colleges

College Football Stadiums Focus On Improved Wi-Fi, Cell Service To Bring Fans Back

More college football fans are choosing to stay at home to watch games on TV instead of going to games, and schools everywhere are “stepping up the fan experience to lure them back to the stadiums,” according to Jake Trotter of ESPN.com. The “national epidemic of declining attendance ... has spurred athletic departments across the country to get creative in improving their football stadium fan amenities -- while also investing heavily in the most obvious of solutions.” The Big Ten last year formed a gameday experience subcommittee and found that “boosted cellular service and Wi-Fi availability throughout a stadium was paramount.” Penn State had been the “only Big Ten program with stadium Wi-Fi.” But Wisconsin this month announced it would be spending $6.2M to “install a Wi-Fi network,” and Nebraska's regents approved $12.3M for a “Wi-Fi and sound system project for its stadium” earlier this year. Ohio State AD Gene Smith, who chairs the subcommittee, said, “We’re encouraging schools to get Wi-Fi if they don’t have it, so their fans can have access to that second screen.” In another example of increasing fan access, Smith said that this season leading up to kickoff, Ohio State will begin “showing live shots on its video board” of its team prepping for the game in the locker room and will air “behind-the-scenes footage of the players, such as team meetings at the hotel on Friday nights.” Trotter noted many more schools have “moved forward with enhancing” cell service. Texas Tech AD Kirby Hocutt said, “We live in this social media world in which people want to be connected and want to converse during games. It’s important to be able to send and receive messages inside the stadium.” Baylor will be “introducing a phone app for its new McLane Stadium ... that will allow fans to rank game highlights that would then be shown in order accordingly on the video board” (ESPN.com, 6/24).   

BEER ME: In Dallas, Melissa Repko reports SMU will "kick off beer sales at football games this fall after strong sales at campus basketball games." SMU Assistant AD/PR Brad Sutton said that the university will "expand beer sales to Ford Stadium concourses and plans to start sales at the first home game on Sept. 20 against Texas A&M." Alcohol is "already available in stadium suites" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/25).
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