SBJ/July 21 - 27, 2003/Special Report

‘Smart seats’ not convincing to some fans

The San Francisco Giants initially were sold on the idea of installing "smart-seat" technology, utilizing the latest digital information, when Pacific Bell Park opened in 2000.

That is, until the Major League Baseball franchise started polling its constituents, said Pat Gallagher, president of Giants Enterprises. Then the team changed its mind.

"We were really high on the idea," Gallagher said. "It would add value to what we called 'charter seats,' in which we would potentially charge a premium price. We tested that and other ways to technically improve things.

"Smart seats tested right at the bottom. The reason given was that people wanted to get away from that stuff at the ballpark. The last thing they wanted to see was a laptop or computer screen in front of them."

Through a firm called ChoiceSeat, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., home of MLB's Tampa Bay Devil Rays, had the technology in place in 1997-98 with touch screens in front of 100 seats behind home plate. Those tickets were $200 per game at the time.

Premium seat holders could observe instant replay, view plays from various camera angles, download statistics from Major League Baseball, track pitches and order concessions.

However, ChoiceSeat went out of business and the software was removed from the stadium.

"It wasn't a huge seller for us. Some people enjoyed it," said venue GM Rick Nafe. "But you had to argue the thinking of putting them in the best seats in the house. Here you had seats with the best view with fans watching a screen."

Nafe isn't sure if in-seat technology will ever establish a footing, especially if there is no financial gain for the venue and its tenants.

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