Football teams are racing to install stadium Wi-Fi to attract rabid fans
When the Philadelphia Eagles unveiled an enhanced, high-density Wi-Fi network inside Lincoln Financial Field this past September, the team was reacting to increased demands from fans for a richer, more interactive experience while they were watching their favorite team take on the opposition.
In past years, the 70,000 fans inside the stadium overwhelmed an old Wi-Fi system when they tried to post updates on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media networks, according to the team, so a new system that now allows some 40,000 simultaneous users at once took its place. The idea, according to Eagles president Don Smolenski, was to create a network that allow the team's incredibly passionate football fans to use their mobile devices to share their excitement at being at the game with friends and family back home.
The project has been so successful that the Eagles showed it off at a small Mobility Summit at the stadium on Nov. 13, where representatives from other sports teams, including the National Football League's Cincinnati Bengals and the University of Alabama, came to see what was accomplished and to learn how they might do similar projects in their own stadiums.
Pat Nieser, senior corporate sales manager for the Bengals, and Milton Overton, senior associate director of athletics at Alabama, were impressed.
"The NFL is putting a large focus on this," Nieser told CITEworld. "We have Wi-Fi in certain parts of our facility, Paul Brown Stadium," but it's older equipment and it doesn't provide adequate service to fans in all parts of the stadium, he said. "Our focus is on making the fan experience better than they have at home."
Nieser came to the Summit, which was sponsored by the Eagles and Extreme Networks, to learn how it worked here and to take back good ideas for Cincinnati's deployment. The Bengals are hoping to have a massively improved Wi-Fi system ready for its fans by the 2015 season, he said.
"It's a league initiative," he said. "The in-stadium experience is the focus and that's to make sure that we have a full stadium every Sunday."
What's also important, he said, is to attract younger fans by providing great connectivity for their mobile devices wherever they go in the stadium. "We want to make sure that young fans, who are getting out of college now, will be season ticket holders when they have future discretionary income," Nieser said. To do that, those fans, who are heavy users of technology, social media and mobile devices, have to be served by teams to provide the connectivity that they demand, he said. "It's relatively simple to consume content on the couch, but there's something at a live game that's hard to duplicate at home."
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