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Volume 23 No. 28
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Sporting KC owner will offer tech help to other teams, leagues

Sporting Club, the company that owns Major League Soccer’s Sporting Kansas City, has launched a technology and entertainment business that’s designed to use the knowledge gained from the club’s tech-friendly Livestrong Sporting Park.

Sporting Innovations, a consulting firm that will be unveiled Wednesday, comes just four months after the club opened Livestrong Sporting Park, a $200 million soccer-specific stadium. The new business will consult with other pro sports teams and leagues on how to use high-density wireless technology and ultra-high-speed broadband networks — both of which the club is familiar with because of the high level of technology built into its new stadium.

“It’s based off of what we’ve learned with the stadium and the key relationships we have with tech companies,” said Sasha Victorine, director of business development for Sporting Club. “There are a whole host of technologies we feel are going to change the way sports connect to fans.”

Livestrong Sporting Park was built with two one-gigabyte broadband feeds from Time Warner, and the team’s partnership with Cisco installed 196 wireless routers throughout the park. It is the only Major League Soccer stadium to use Cisco’s StadiumVision customized-video distribution product currently used at Yankee Stadium and Cowboys Stadium, along with a handful of other MLB and NFL venues.

According to Asim Pasha, CIO for Sporting Kansas City and managing partner for Sporting Innovations, the wireless connection speed inside Livestrong Sporting Park is three to five times faster than inside Cowboys Stadium.
Livestrong Sporting Park’s technology infrastructure is not unlike that found at the other stadiums, but Victorine said that specific software produced by Google, matched with the design of the network, gives the stadium’s system a faster connection speed.

“They are out in front of everybody with their hardware, and it sounds like with their software, too,” said Keith Ritter, former head of NHL Interactive who now runs his own consulting firm.

Sporting KC sources said representatives from the NFL, MLB, NBA and English Premier League, as well as from Verizon, AT&T and Cisco, will be present at Wednesday’s announcement. Team sources declined to discuss the cost structure for their consulting services. Victorine declined to say whether the firm had signed any clients yet.

According to league and team sources, the spin-off tech business is a first for Major League Soccer. Pasha said the business will launch with 30 full-time employees. He added that the team will share details of its upcoming tech offerings with clients.

In November, the company will debut a mobile application that allows fans to watch live video feeds on their smartphones from various camera angles. Another planned application will allow fans to order apparel during the game.

“The stadium is our living lab, and what we do here we can make available nationally and internationally,” Pasha said.