The Future-Proof Venue: What Smart Venues Can Do Today
For years, decades maybe, sports teams and venue operators have looked at investments in their venues as sunk costs. And, for the most part, they’ve been right. When fans love their team they will do anything to be there live. For example, support for the São Paulo Corinthians soccer club runs deep; look no further than this pyrotechnic-filled practice session packed with 40,000 supporters. In 2012 the Corinthians reached the final rounds of the FIFA Club World Cup, which were held in Japan. In order to attend, fans sold their worldly possessions to buy a plane ticket.
However, even for those lucky venues with sold-out crowds, that is only a fraction of the hurdles they face. Teams and properties need to think creatively about how to make their venues exciting today and relevant tomorrow. Preparing for this future requires venue operators to confront challenges today:
- Data is everywhere. Analysis is not. Venues are awash in data. Fan interactions produce data, network events produce data and smart devices produce data, all which create noise for the teams and properties. Before venues can benefit from this resource, they mush enrich the data with context, create insights and bring together previously siloed teams.
- Security threats are real. Most venues don't know who or what is in their venue, pursuing this real-time visibility is a race against the next major incident. One unfortunate event can turn a packed stadium into a ghost-town. SAFETY Act certification is becoming the norm, but venue operators need to go beyond these requirements to identify individuals and protect against new threats like drones and hackers.
- Mixed-use districts raise the bar. Mixed-use districts with entertainment, shopping and even real-estate options make the venue a destination beyond game day. This poses a new challenge to operators who must create flexible spaces with mobile-first services. They must also cope with greater demands on networking and security operations.
The Smart Venue prioritizes speed, security and sustainability. The result is a safe, unforgettable experience that brings fans back. We’ve created a 3 “S” playbook to help operators and vendors prioritize their innovation strategies:
Currently, venues must simultaneously supply fans with network bandwidth, and power their own operations. Trying to upload a video to Snapchat in a crowded stadium is challenging, and users feel that pain. The frustration of sharing photos and videos has made fans aware of connectivity challenges. Venue operators and staff also feel the pain as they expand their menu of mobile services, support POS devices, and offer immersive experiences. Venues can innovate speed by focusing on:
- Data Consumption – Camp Nou’s 2017 “Estadi Conectat” project equipped the stadium and surrounding area with 1,500 Telefonica antennas to improve Wi-Fi connectivity. This free Wi-Fi allowed the stadium to set the record for amount of content downloaded from the internet by users during a sporting event (7.07 Gbps) doubling the previous record set at the Super Bowl.
- Mobile Services – Norway’s Telenor Arena cut the amount of time it takes for fans to get a drink from 5 minutes to 90 seconds. The mobile-first, cashless arena leveraged LiveStyled's app to create app-only bars where customers could pre-order and pick up their drinks. Via their mobile app, the Orlando Magic let fans use Magic Money currency to pay for seat upgrades, buy additional tickets, and purchase experiences like attending a post-game press conference.
- Connectivity – Golden 1 worked with Ruckus Wireless to provide in-stadium Wi-Fi that is free, has no password, and is 17,000 times faster than home Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi is also available to those inside the neighboring Downtown Commons shopping area. Responding to connectivity complaints from fans, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) worked with IBM and Cisco to upgrade its Wi-Fi. They also worked with Telstra to install a Distributed Antenna System which allowed the MCG to support the connectivity of 100,000 visitors.
Do you know who is in your venue? For most venues, the answer is a resounding "NO!" The secondary ticketing market has obscured the link between ticket purchases and actual attendees. Facial recognition technology and fingerprint scans authenticate identity and help keep banned individuals from entering. While these technologies address “who” is in your venue, they do not solve the problem of “what.” Drones and cyber attacks are some of the additional threats Smart Venues must evolve their incident management protocols to address. Venues innovate security through attention to:
- Chain of Custody – Using Ticketmaster Presence Orlando SC was able to provide digital access control and increase the number of known fans by 398%. Aventus, Guts.Tickets and UpGraded are attacking the problem of ownership with blockchain; they believe it can help verify identity and cut out price inflation from the secondary ticket market.
- Access Management – With the goal of reducing football-related violence, Centenario Stadium in Uruguay engaged Herta Security’s facial recognition technology to screen for banned individuals. The success of this initiative resulted in two more stadiums implementing the tech. MLB is also embracing biometric access management through their partnership with Clear. In the MLS the San Jose Earthquakes partnered with Clear for biometric entry.
- New Physical & Virtual Threats – Hackers can inflict damage or steal information assets such as athlete medical records. The NHL Players Association partnered with DarkTrace to protect players assets and educate players on information security best practice. The Commonwealth Games in Australia equipped their security personnel with anti-drone guns that could jam the signal of a drone, disabling the operator’s control.
Will your venue stand the test of time? Entertainment districts are rising to the challenge by creating spaces designed for multiple sports and events. All of this customization comes at a cost—providing incredible light shows and immersive experiences don’t come cheap. Venues hedge against these costs through efficient reduction of energy, water and plastic consumption. Venues further strengthen their durability by enmeshing themselves in the city around them through mobility and connectivity initiatives. In the following ways the sustainable venue is efficient today, relevant tomorrow and brings value to its community:
- Utility Consumption – Mercedes Benz Stadium reduced water consumption by capturing rain runoff water in a 680,000-gallon cistern. The water is then used to irrigate the field. Building an ice-rink in LA is a utility nightmare, so the LA Kings partnered with BlueEco to make ice that is clearer and consumes less water. The Kings optimized internal air flow so they did not need to keep the arena at sub-arctic temperatures, a win for fans and their utility bill.
- Flexible Operations – Mixed-use venues are the new normal, making the venue feel as if it were designed for single purpose is the next goal. PNC Arena will often have a basketball game during the day and a hockey game at night. They use Schneider Control’s EcoStruxure building management console to switch between profiles for games. To host soccer and football on the same field, the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium developed a retractable pitch that has real and synthetic grass options. Changing the pitch takes 25 minutes.
- Community Partnerships – The 49ers EDU brings school children to Levi’s Stadium to see Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) in action. To date 60,000 children have visited the center, a cost which is footed by the 49ers organization. For other stadiums the connection to the city comes through improving infrastructure. The LAFC is working with the city to expand bike path access to the stadium in conjunction with the city’s My Figueroa urban development initiative. Smart Building sponsor of the Wisconsin Sports & Entertainment Center, Johnson Controls is partnering with the Milwaukee Bucks to build initiatives that benefit the broader community of Milwaukee residents.
For Smart Venues, innovation often starts with improving process efficiency and infusing technology into existing practice behind the scenes and out of the view of the fan. This creates the ability to deliver fan-facing innovation like exciting content for the jumbotron and interactive experiences. Venue operators that focus on refining their speed, security and sustainability will create venues that adapt to the future, create a safe environment, and interweave themselves in the communities around them.
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