SBJ/Oct. 21-27, 2013/Facilities

Chiefs busy testing mobile concessions tech at Arrowhead

Don Muret
Some Kansas City Chiefs fans can now pay for beer with credit cards without leaving their seats at Arrowhead Stadium.

The added convenience is one of several pieces of mobile concessions technology the Chiefs are testing this season on the club level to drive incremental revenue and collect more data from their season-ticket holders, said David Young, the team’s vice president of stadium operations.

The Chiefs, in conjunction with Levy Restaurants, their premium food provider, and Bypass, a technology firm, have equipped beer vendors with Samsung Galaxy S3 handhelds that Bypass has programmed to take credit cards for payment. The vendors use the handhelds as they roam the stadium’s 10,200 club seats selling beer, bottled water and peanuts, Young said.

Servers at one Arrowhead club are using customized tablets to take credit card payments.
Photo by: KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Separately, Levy cocktail servers working the lounge in the Foolish Club in Section 213 are using larger Samsung tablets customized by Bypass to process orders, streamlining purchases by taking payment without making multiple trips to the bar.

The third piece of the test was set to launch Sunday for the Chiefs’ home game against Houston, allowing about 500 fans in sections 212 through 216 to order food and drink through Chiefs Mobile, the team’s new mobile application.

The in-app ordering is restricted to a BBQ stand at Section 215 equipped with a Bypass tablet as its point-of-sale system.

The Chiefs are targeting the end of October to test mobile merchandise ordering through Aramark, their retail provider, Young said. The test will be done for club-seat holders in Section 209.

Apart from concessions, Chiefs Mobile, developed by YinzCam, has live camera feeds during the game that enable fans to view streaming video on their smartphones and tablets from multiple angles. They also have access to the NFL’s RedZone channel, Young said.

All these high-tech bells and whistles are supported through recent upgrades to wireless infrastructure, including a distributed antenna system shared by AT&T, Sprint and Verizon, and Cisco’s high-density Wi-Fi system covering 600 new access points in the stadium. The directive from the Hunt family, owner of the Chiefs, was to go beyond installing new technology at Arrowhead, a 41-year-old facility, and to develop it in a way to make for a better fan experience, Young said.

For Bypass, the ability to customize tablets for sports food operations is the latest evolution for a firm that entered the space in 2010 by providing a Web-based service to order concessions from smartphones. The Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots are also using Bypass-programmed tablets at their facilities.

Over the past three years, as mobile devices have become more sophisticated, they are serving as mobile payment systems as a flexible option to traditional point-of-sale vendors such as Micros and NCR-owned Quest, said Bypass President Brandon Lloyd.

“It means the POS business is no longer a hardware investment you make once every seven years,” Lloyd said. “It now evolves with your venue to support CRM, loyalty, loaded tickets, data mining and other software functions.”

> LEADING THE PACK: The Husky Stadium renovation was completed a few million dollars under budget, a function of the developer-led model the school used after failing to get tax dollars for the project.

Local developer Wright Runstad & Co. took the lead, filling the role as the owner’s representative for the University of Washington. Its partners were two national sports firms, 360 Architecture, the stadium’s designer, and Turner Construction, the contractor responsible for building the renovation.

Together, the Wright Runstad-led team streamlined the process for taking bids and delivered the project for $247.4 million after proposing it would cost $250 million when it was awarded the project in August 2010.

“Basically, we had a private-public partnership,” said Chip Lydum, Washington’s associate athletic director of operations and capital projects.

The total project cost was $280.6 million after the school’s board of regents approved add-ons later in the development, including the $11 million UW Sports Medicine Clinic below the stadium, $5.1 million for an IPTV system, $2.3 million for the Touchdown Terrace and other upgrades.

The renovation is being paid for through $230.6 million in new revenue tied to the stadium, including premium seats and sponsorships, and $50 million in philanthropic donations. As of late September, the school had generated $52 million in donations, UW officials said.

The developer-led model in the college space is not new but it is not the typical path schools take to pay for sports facility construction.

Under more traditional models, builders such as Turner take on most financial risk to ensure a project is done on time and on budget. Washington struggled for several years to find a funding model. UW officials had asked state legislators to extend local sales taxes to pay for half the cost to renovate the stadium, including a food and drink tax used to pay construction debt for Safeco Field, home of the Mariners.

After state leaders denied the requests, the school and the state agreed to use a private developer to manage the project.

Mark Emmert, Washington’s president before becoming president of the NCAA in November 2010, saw the developer model used to build student housing during his tenure as chancellor at LSU, Lydum said.

“We looked at a lot of places, but no one really had this kind of hybrid model that we have,” said Scott Woodward, Washington’s athletic director.

The process starts publicly, Lydum said, with proposals issued to private developers, and after one is selected, it becomes the client’s construction agent managing the entire process from start to finish.

“The university gave Scott Woodward authority over the project and he was able to make decisions without going back to the administrative labyrinth all the time,” Lydum said. “The university could be required to go through 28 approval steps on campus. We were only required to have three approvals. It liberated the process.”

Don Muret can be reached at dmuret@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @breakground.

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