SBJ/July 28-Aug. 3, 2014/Facilities

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  • With self-serve ticket scanners, 49ers look to personalize the process

    The San Francisco 49ers have developed their own self-service ticket scanning system they say will make entering Levi’s Stadium a more efficient — and more personal — experience.

    The system, called Kezar, is connected to the team’s new mobile application for Levi’s Stadium, which it rolled out last week. The app allows fans to upload tickets and parking passes on their devices to be scanned by Kezar, among other features.

    The 49ers introduced a new app for Levi’s Stadium last week that connects to the new Kezar ticket-scanning system, a unit of which is shown below. Both were developed in-house.

    Kezar was created by the team’s IT group, headed by Dan Williams, the 49ers’ vice president of technology and Facebook’s former director of operations. The Levi’s Stadium app was also developed in-house, separate from the team’s app.

    “Being a fan myself and dealing with a lot of constraints going into venues, it just seemed like using a
    [game-day staffer] to scan a ticket was not efficient,” Williams said. “So one of the pet projects I had was to develop a self-service scanning solution.”

    The system will also provide a new source of real-time data for the 49ers’ ticket office.

    Fans walking up to the gates at Levi’s Stadium will scan their tickets through a Kezar unit, which looks something like a parking meter. It can read standard bar codes and QR codes on both mobile and paper tickets.

    The cameras read ticket codes faster than the handheld scanners typically used at stadiums, speeding up entrance to the building, Williams said.

    Greeters with tablets will be stationed beyond the Kezar units, monitoring the gates. Kezar enables a greeter’s tablet to identify whether a ticket is valid, to help eliminate counterfeits.

    The system also customizes the experience. The names of fans using the stadium mobile app to enter will appear on the greeter’s tablet screen, plus personal information such as how many times they have been to the facility, which they can use to interact with the fans.

    More functionality will be added in the future as the team wraps its arms around the technology, said Al Guido, the club’s chief operating officer.

    “Greeters can certainly say, ‘Hi, how are you doing, welcome to Levi’s Stadium,’” Guido said. “But in time, why can’t they be smart enough to say, ‘Welcome to your 50th game, here’s a gift, meet Al Guido at the BNY Mellon Club.’ It allows our service team to really develop a different experience with fans at the gate.”

    Kezar is basically an access control system similar to programs developed by Fortress and Alvarado, two companies working with other major league teams, said Dave Scarborough, Ticketmaster’s chief strategy officer.

    All three systems are compatible with Ticketmaster’s technology platform. The 49ers, a Ticketmaster client, are thought to be the first team to form their own access control program without using a third-party vendor specializing in that space, Scarborough said.

    The 49ers tested Kezar last year at one gate during their final season at Candlestick Park and for the team’s draft day party in May. Last Friday, they scheduled the first test at Levi’s Stadium during a soft opening for season-ticket holders.

    Kezar extends to the parking lots, where attendants will hold Android devices equipped with the program’s software version to scan parking bar codes for season-ticket holders. In addition, the team plans to use both elements of Kezar to manage access at the stadium’s all-inclusive clubs, and its restaurant, Michael Mina’s Tailgate at Bourbon Steak & Pub.

    The system’s name is a nod to Kezar Stadium, the 49ers’ home from 1946 to 1970.

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  • At Rapids’ club, members now have their own liquor lockers

    Don Muret
    The Colorado Rapids’ alcohol sales have multiplied after the team introduced new liquor lockers as a club amenity at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

    Taking a cue from a Denver steakhouse, the Rapids had 80 custom lockers built for all members of the Summit Club powered by 2lemetry.

    Those members pay $175 a game for access to the all-inclusive club, a 4,500-square-foot indoor lounge along the stadium’s northwest side. The fee covers game tickets plus food, beer and most wine but not hard liquor, and during the club’s first year of operation, team officials noticed several members reaching into their pockets to buy drinks.

    Lockers at the Summit Club powered by 2lemetry have room for several bottles of hard liquor and premium wine.
    Photo by: GARRETT ELLWOOD

    To generate more revenue and provide a convenience for those premium patrons, the Rapids had the lockers built this season, the club’s second year of operation. They debuted for a match June 4, and that night Aramark, the Rapids’ concessionaire, sold more than $6,000 in hard liquor plus a small amount of higher-end wine not available in the ticket package.

    Previously, Aramark sold an average of $300 a game in hard liquor and higher-end wines, said David Burke, the
    Rapids’ chief revenue officer.

    Since the lockers were introduced, every club member has bought at least two bottles of liquor, Burke said. Each locker can hold four bottles of liquor and two bottles of wine. Club members can now enjoy having drinks over the course of the season and store them in a safe place, rather than having to dump what’s left in a bottle after a game.

    The lockers, made of Colorado wood, are set apart from the bar and accessible only to Aramark servers because of state liquor laws.

    Members’ names or companies and a number are attached to their lockers, and tags inscribed with their names hang around the necks of the bottles they buy from the bar. There are no additional fees to use the lockers and they lend an elegant touch over the old cash bar format, Burke said.

    “We saw club customers wanted more liquor options, and the question was how do we continue to present a premium experience and give them something nobody else has?” he said.

    The light bulb went on after Burke and Rapids President Tim Hinchey dined together at a local steakhouse and observed the restaurant’s liquor lockers. They both thought it would work well in a sports setting.

    Cerén, a 7-year-old vodka brand from El Salvador imported locally by Rio Blanco Spirits, paid for the cost to build the lockers. In return, Cerén has a deal pending to become the team’s official vodka supplier, Burke said.

    The path to landing Cerén came through a Rapids club member who owns a bar in Denver and is an investor in the vodka company, he said.

    Next year, the Rapids plan to expand the club by roughly 30 seats, Burke said.

    > KRUSH CLUB: The University of Illinois is the newest school to build an arena club exclusive to students attending basketball games.

    As part of the $160 million renovation of State Farm Center, formerly Assembly Hall, sports architect AECOM is designing a 2,000-square-foot club a half-level below the main concourse.

    As it stands now, students must wait outside the arena hours before tipoff to get seats on the floor, often during harsh Midwest winters. After the opening of the new Orange Krush club, named for the official student cheering section and the charitable group for which it raises money, they can enter the arena much earlier through their own private entrance leading to the club, project architect Greg Brown said.

    Because most students fall under the legal drinking age, the club will serve sodas and pizza instead of beer and pretzels, Brown said,

    They will also enjoy a much better vantage point for the game upstairs in the seating bowl. There will be about 1,200 retractable seats reserved for Orange Krush members hugging three sides of the court. The old setup had folding chairs filling “dead zones” inside the oval shaped arena, Brown said.

    The multiphase project will be completed in fall 2016.

    In Tampa, the University of South Florida became one of the first schools to develop a students-only club, tied to the Sun Dome’s facelift. The arena’s $35 million renovation, designed by Populous, was completed in 2012.

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

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