Ever since the invention of the high-definition television, sports columnists have argued that the home viewing experience has surpassed the hassle of watching a game in person. True sports fans, however, know that nothing beats the sights, sounds, and feeling of being there in the flesh — and stadiums around the globe are investing heavily in new tech to further enrich the live game day experience.
In the NFL, instant replay and challenges have helped swing numerous key games. Newer stadiums provide fans with massive screens, letting them see slow-motion replays right above the field as referees determine whether the call on the field was correct. At AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the big screen measures an impressive 160 feet wide by 72 feet tall, stretching between the 20-yard lines for an experience that no living room in the world can match.
For Millennials and Baby Boomers alike, the ability to share the in-game experience with friends and other fans is crucial. New venues are investing in better Wi-Fi networks to keep fans sharing videos, pictures, and posts. In some places, stadiums are combining these networks with special offers and features, sending attendees push notifications for everything from product discounts to restroom directions. Levi’s Stadium in California even uses a network of Internet of Things sensors to guide attendees from parking to seat navigation to food orders, all from their smartphones.
When a third of college students now consider internet access to be as important as food and shelter, these features go a long way to keep young fans coming to games.
Smartphones and big screens aren’t the only pieces of tech gaining ground in sports, though. Virtual and augmented reality systems are also testing the waters of the sporting world. Andy Dolich, co-founder of VR startup Vhere, imagines a day when attendees can strap on VR devices to watch halftime pep talks or join the team for the champagne celebration after a championship.
The Fan Experience of the Future
Stadiums around the world are competing to see who can provide the best experience for fans. At AT&T Stadium and U.S. Bank Stadium (home to the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings), for instance, architects created field-level clubs with special amenities where fans can watch teams enter and exit the field. These clubs provide the closest access to star players that fans can get without attending a meet-and-greet. Of course, both stadiums ensure Wi-Fi signals stay strong in the clubs, enabling attendees to snap photos of players and brag about their good fortune online.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium, where the Atlanta Falcons play, offers an app feature called 'Ask Arthur Blank,' where fans can get answers to common stadium questions as if the owner himself were their tour guide.
Several of the largest professional sports stadiums have also integrated enterprise solutions provider Pogoseat into their stadium-based apps. Fans at these stadiums enjoy an uncommon benefit: During the game, fans can open the app and upgrade their tickets at any time, increasing stadium revenue while giving fans another opportunity to customize their game-day experience.
Sports leagues and stadiums outside of the U.S. refuse to be left behind in this technology-fueled arms race. Intel helped La Liga, the top-tier Spanish soccer league, install new 360-degree replay technology before the match between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid last year. In English soccer, Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium will feature retractable turf, allowing the venue to host more NFL games with ease.
These new additions to stadiums and sports environments transform a ticket to a game into so much more. Advancing technology is continuing to improve the in-game experience, and whether you’re just enjoying the game as a fan or trying to impress important business clients, these experiences will help create memories that will last a lifetime — and that’s what really matters.