We asked top executives at teams and venues: What will the fan experience look like in five years?
Jonathan Becher, Sharks
William Gibson famously said, “The future has already arrived, it’s just not evenly distributed.” Livestreaming has arrived and will become ubiquitous. Crowd-sourced social content will replace much of the franchise-generated content, including in-game. Augmented reality will collapse the second screen in the primary one; allowing second-channel storytelling to be overlaid onto live experiences. Virtual reality will allow fans to interact with their favorite athletes and even compete “live” in specific game situations.
Valerie Camillo, Nationals
The Ballpark app continues to be a great source of opportunity for teams. It’s a source of entertainment. We’re going to have a lot of fun and interesting things in the app for fans to engage with, both sponsored and unsponsored content. And obviously, the app continues to highlight all the choices and features of our ballpark.
Sarah Contardo, Churchill Downs
We really want people to feel when they come here that they are stepping back in time and getting to experience some of that Americana for themselves. So while we are going to continue to listen to the consumer and create things they want, we are always going to do that with a nod to our historical facility and being sure of who we are. We are going to continue to invest in technology. We do research on what is the hot topic for millennials. A lot of our folks are saying they don’t want to sit in a seat for a long time. They want to be able to move around. And our venue naturally lends itself to that. So, in that sense, we are already there.
Marc de Grandpre, Red Bulls
I expect to see more of a frictionless ingress. This will include cashless transactions for food, beverage and merchandise. We are moving toward that here at Red Bull Arena as we have already added self-service kiosks, but the “just walk out” technology that we are seeing with Amazon’s new Amazon Go cashless grocery store model might be a peek into the future of sports and entertainment venues.
Bill DeWitt III, Cardinals
Mobile phone platforms for more team information, concessions ordering, ticketless entry and so forth will see a lot of innovation in the coming years. Our challenge will be to make sure the play on the field gives our fans a reason to look up from their phones.
Mark Donovan, Chiefs
Going to be more technologically advanced than we can imagine now. The things we will be doing people haven’t thought of yet, ways to bring fans closer, have smaller venues, more intimate experiences, more options of experiences.
Peter Feigin, Bucks
Ticketing will be dramatically different with facial recognition and wristbands. Everything will evolve into a seamless customer experience. It will get to a point where it will all be seamless and a lot of things will be mobile. You will customize the fan experience a lot more than before.
Neil Glat, Jets
The sports fan in 2022 will likely consume additional and more customized sports content through OTT and digital platforms; take advantage of new and better augmented reality and virtual reality offerings; and utilize mobile ticketing, mobile payments, and personalized apps. In addition, stadiums and arenas will be state-of-the-art venues that will allow fans to optimize their experiences through technology. They will also be “places where people will want to be” to bond with fellow fans to cheer for their teams, to socialize with friends, and to meet new people.
Chris Granger, Ilitch Holdings
People are looking for a broader entertainment experience beyond the game itself. The sporting event or the concert is the anchor to what’s happening, but people are looking to keep broadening that. … I think when you’re part of a broader development in the heart of the district like we are here, you’re not just driving attendance for your own events, but all the events that are around you as well.
Derrick Hall, Diamondbacks
Fan experience should be about full and unique access that viewers or listeners at home do not have the ability to enjoy. We will make fans an intimate part of the action, with camera shots in-stadium or in-seat of the dugouts, the bullpens, maybe even the clubhouses. We should provide audio to fans in the stadium of our players, coaches and umpires in-game. And fans should have the ability and choice to navigate where they want to go for a bird’s-eye view or who they want to hear at any given time.
Sean Henry, Predators
We’ve internally established a future of sports group of roughly 35 employees where we all try to imagine how will people view our games in-venue, off-site and in their home. Our goal is to discover problems that even 30 years from now will be the same as today and start attacking that now. One of the things we’re discussing now is how fans interact with stats and information during the game, and what that’ll look like in the future. We’re currently in the middle of the three-year renovation and upgrade of all of our video boards, which will include a new center-hung scoreboard, boards across the concourse, new ribbon boards and new end zone panels that we’re calling character boards. We’re going to be also lighting up different parts of our concourses and replacing all of the wayfinding signage.
Dave Jolette, Kroenke Sports
All future venues must design a social (media) experience within the facility to support the event happening on the playing surface. And 360-degree experiences: Why not build lower-level seating that rotates around the playing surface to change consumer viewing all game long? (Ty Whitehead trademark suggestion!)
Dave Kaval, A’s
I think the concept of sitting in one seat and having a fixed viewing experience will be a thing of the past. We are designing our new ballpark in Oakland to meet this new customer demand by building in different fan experience areas, like what we did with the longest exterior bar in North America at Avaya Stadium.
Sam Kennedy, Red Sox
We’ve all seen technology integrated into the fan experience in various ways, and we have worked to incorporate things like virtual reality, and soon AI, into our game-day offering for fans. We are embarking on a “Fenway 3.0” exercise right now where we are looking at ways to make Fenway more appealing to millennials and the next generation (communal gathering spaces, etc.). Finally, as part of the “Fenway 3.0” examination we see our next evolution of growth (after 17 years here) coming from development in the Fenway neighborhood. We have acquired many strategic parcels surrounding Fenway and we are currently evaluating development opportunities to expand Fenway’s relatively small footprint.
Mark Lamping, Jaguars
I wish I knew. … More digitally connected, way beyond what we have now, like adding augmented reality or wearable technology.
Jake Reid, Sporting KC
One of the things that I think will be happening less is the resisting of change. I think that’s the history of the last decade or so. It’s like the old debate around the second screen — you can’t let them stream games, or fans will stop coming to games. I read an article where Mark Cuban was basically quoted saying, why would you want to change fan behavior when they’re just trying to become more connected with your brand. For the longest time in ticketing, everyone was afraid of the secondary market, and you had to control the inventory or else. The reality is people are going to go where they can find the best deal and where they feel comfortable. If you try to control that process too much, it’s not to the fan’s benefit and you might lose them. I think you’re going to increasingly see an approach that says, well rather than lose them, maybe I don’t know how best to capitalize on this right now in terms of where people are consuming our brand, but I’d rather them be more deeply engaged in our brand than not.
Jordan Solomon, MSG Sports
It will continue to be leveraging technology in more robust ways. That will range from the experience on your phone, digital ticketing and specialized offerings. It is about the technology to solve the customer’s pain points and to deliver a better experience for our fans.
Steve Starks, Jazz
There is no substitute for people coming to the arena and experiencing live action so it is how do we leverage the digital [technology] in an arena in a way that it is a seamless experience so you can enjoy your phone but have a memory of seeing it live. It is being able to merge virtual reality with live action. We have to be prepared for that technology.
Rick Welts, Warriors
We will see venues programming for every day of the year. For us, that includes having 29 retail locations that will be part of the project along with a 5-acre park and an entry plaza.
– Compiled by staff reports. Answers were edited for clarity and brevity.