SBJ/September 5-11, 2011/In Depth

Rolling out this season at NFL stadiums

Technology continues to play a bigger role in how NFL venues improve the fan experience, whether it’s how they are able to order concessions, or the quality of the mobile service they receive. The following are some of the improvements fans will find this season at various stadiums.

COWBOYS STADIUM: Legends Hospitality Management, the Cowboys’ retail and food company, installed a new electronic queuing system to improve customer flow at the Cowboys Stadium Pro Shop.

BUD FORCE
A new system will help shoppers navigate checkout lines at the Cowboys Stadium Pro Shop.
The first two seasons at the facility, the line to buy merchandise on game days snaked around the busy team store, making it difficult for fans to see which of the 20 cash registers were open, said Michael Bekolay, Legends’ vice president of operations.

In many cases, Legends officials saw shoppers give up and leave the store instead of trying to negotiate a line with no sense of order. The concessionaire did some research and found an automated solution. Every register now has a button for sales personnel to hit after a sale is completed. It activates a 42-inch LED screen in front of the line to guide the next customer in line to an open register.

For Cowboys Stadium’s two preseason games, Legends saw a 30 percent increase in speed of service for fans moving through the line. The investment was $15,000, Bekolay said.

EVERBANK FIELD: The Jacksonville Jaguars, in tandem with their concessionaires, Ovations Food Services and Levy Restaurants, are rolling out smartphone applications for ordering food and drink during NFL games. Both firms are using FanGo, one of a few mobile food ordering vendors in the market.

Ovations handles general concessions at EverBank Field and is deploying the system for pickup service, restricted to a stand in back of Section 118 in the north end zone of the lower bowl.

Fans who want to use the technology download the FanGo application and register with a valid credit card number. Tapping the application takes consumers through the proper sequence for ordering food and drink. When their order is ready, the consumers receive a text message with information on where to pick it up, said Tom Anastacia, Ovations’ area general manager.

FanGo will be ready for operation Sunday, the day of the Jaguars’ first regular-season game against Tennessee. If it proves to be successful, Ovations could add more mobile concessions locations in the upper deck, Anastacia said. Ovations’ deal with FanGo is a revenue-share model, he said.

Levy, the Jaguars’ premium food vendor, will use FanGo for in-seat service for club seats.

SUN LIFE STADIUM: The Miami Dolphins are giving fans buying tickets to Liv Sun Life club seats $25 gift cards to spend on food and drink.

Liv Sun Life, a swanky two-level space above the stadium’s west end zone, debuted last season as a hip hospitality
MIAMI DOLPHINS
Dolphins fans in the Liv Sun Life Club will get $25 gift cards for food and drink.
space for 600 ticketed patrons.

Complaints about last year’s steep ticket prices prompted the Dolphins to cut Liv Sun Life’s ticket prices in half for the 2011 season to $150 to $275 per game. As a further incentive, the team threw in the complimentary gift cards after the club’s ticket holders felt they also got hit hard in the wallet to buy premium food and drink in the lounges, said Mark Tilson, the team’s senior vice president of sales and ticket operations.

Every ticket sold for the club has a gift card attached. For example, a fan holding four season tickets in Liv Sun Life receives four gift cards with a total of $100 in value per game. They have to “use it or lose it,” the card’s value cannot be carried over to the next home game, Tilson said.

RELIANT STADIUM: Aramark, the Houston Texans’ food provider, is printing QR codes on in-seat menus inserted in the cupholders for 8,400 club seats at Reliant Stadium. When scanned by a smartphone, those codes take the user to an Aramark-hosted website with a map of concession stands inside the Verizon Club. In addition, SMG, the operator of Reliant Stadium, put QR codes on the back of 23,000 parking passes. When scanned, those codes take drivers to a Google map for real-time traffic updates near the stadium.

METLIFE STADIUM: The joint venture operating the second-year home of the New York Jets and Giants is upgrading cellular and wireless technologies to accommodate increased demand throughout the 82,000-seat building.

Stadium officials have seen a huge increase in data sharing and texting since the stadium opened in April 2010, said Peter Brickman, the facility’s chief technology officer. Moving forward, stadium management is conducting a slow rollout of Wi-Fi service starting with the facility’s 212 suites. As officials gain more confidence in the system, it will be expanded to other parts of the facility.

CANDLESTICK PARK: The San Francisco 49ers are the first NFL team to use paperless tickets for their home games this season at Candlestick Park, according to team officials.

The club worked with Ticketmaster, its ticketing provider, to provide the new technology as one option for season-ticket holders and single-game purchasers to gain access to the stadium.

Those who choose the paperless option must provide a credit card to be swiped through a reader at the gate to confirm the ticket holder’s identity. In return, the fans receive a receipt printed with their seat number and section that serves as their ticket stub for the game.

One point of distinction for this new program: The 49ers allow fans with paperless tickets to resell tickets outside of systems operated by Ticketmaster’s primary site and Ticketmaster Exchange, the team’s official secondary ticketing platform. To date, event-goers who purchased paperless tickets through Ticketmaster could not transfer those tickets to other secondary sites to resell them.

ST. LOUIS RAMS: The Rams extended their sponsorship with Charter Communications to cover naming rights for a new tech-themed lounge on the 100 level. The new branded space is part of the Bud Light Party Zone spanning the north end zone inside the Edward Jones Dome.

The Charter Red Zone, with room for 300 people, will have 25 computer terminals for fans to check their fantasy stats, and Sony televisions to watch the NFL RedZone channel.

The lounge will eventually be open to all fans. As part of its soft launch early in the season, the Rams are restricting access to Charter subscribers, connected to a promotion for using the firm’s mobile applications to pay their bills, said Bob Reif, the Rams’ executive vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer.

Separately, the dome’s new Ping HD digital menu boards are now fully operational after a slow rollout the past two seasons. Delaware North Sportservice, the Rams’ concessionaire, has the flexibility to reduce food prices late in the game to sell remaining items.

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