For many sports fans, it’s not enough to just go to a game. There are pictures to post, smack talk postings to upload on a social network, game-related Tweets to Tweet and maybe even a video or two of a great play to post on YouTube. And that’s on top of a constant stream of fantasy team updates and lineup tweaks.
As it currently stands, however, very few stadiums are equipped as a WiFi hotspot or have the cellular data capacity to allow each sports fan in attendance to connect online via their smartphones or tablets.
Some sports, especially the NFL, want to change the experience at stadiums so fans will be more likely to choose stadium seats over the couches at home.
Last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell mandated the implementation of high-density Wi-Fi infrastructure in each of the league’s 31 stadiums by the 2015 season.
USA Today quoted Goodell as saying, “We have made the point repeatedly that the experience at home is outstanding, and we have to compete with that in some fashion by making sure that we create the same kind of environment in our stadiums.”
What’s The NFL’s Solution?
The answer is clear: The NFL is creating more high-tech stadiums so fans can enjoy all the benefits of Wi-Fi connectivity while they’re at the game.
By offering these services, the NFL hopes that attendance numbers will begin to increase. With game-centric apps and other features fans can enjoy, the NFL could create an experience distinctive to physically being at a game that even the largest HD televisions couldn’t replicate.
Which Franchises Are Out-kicking The Coverage?
These stadiums have either completed, or are on their way to completing, stadiums that are outfitted with high-density Wi-Fi technology. This will allow fans to quickly and easily connect to the Internet, meaning no amount of user traffic at games will clog the pipe and slow Internet speeds to a slug’s pace.
The home of the New England Patriots has found a great way to get their football fans online at the game. Powered with ultra-fast fiber-optic Internet from Verizon FiOS and high-speed Internet from Enterasys Networks, the stadium can support the online antics of all their fans and visitors.
In October of this year, Verizon FiOS hosted an event at the stadium called the #FiOSTailGaming event. With the speed and bandwidth of FiOS, fans competed for tickets to a future game in an online tournament of – what else –Madden 25 on Xbox 360.
The San Francisco 49ers will unveil a brand new, state-of-the-art stadium for the 2014 NFL season. Arstechnica.com reports that “68,500 fans will inevitably walk into the stadium for each game. And every single one of them will be able to connect to the wireless network, simultaneously, without any limits on uploads or downloads.”
With technology like this, the in-game possibilities are virtually endless. Fans can expect to be able to view instant replays on their web-enabled devices and may be able to access live camera angles that are only available to ticket holders.
Being A WiFi Hotspot Is No Longer A Suggestion
These stadiums aren’t the only ones the NFL expects to step up to the Wi-Fi plate. According to Sportsbusinessdaily.com, “The NFL is requiring all league stadiums to meet newly crafted minimum Wi-Fi and cellular standards by the end of the 2014 season, the latest move by America’s top sport to improve the in-game experience.”
Owners got this news in October of this year, so they have some work to do to get their stadiums up to par by the end of next year’s season, although “[t]he Wi-Fi and cellular requirements carry no penalties for noncompliance.”
Gillette Stadium is getting it done, as you can see above. Now the rest of the NFL will need to follow suit.
How Will You Benefit From A WiFi Hotspot Stadium?
The NFL hopes these changes mean you’ll spend a little more time at a game rather than just watching it on the big screen back home. And, honestly, there may be something to that wish. The in-game benefits of this super-powerful WiFi hotspot go beyond just being able to update your Twitter feed.
The new and improved Levi’s Stadium, for instance, will experiment with smartphone apps that will allow fans order food and drinks right from their seats, as well as search for which restrooms have the shortest lines.
You probably shouldn’t expect cheaper game tickets as these new “smart” stadiums open. In fact, ticket prices may go up, with the caveat that these new value-added features – like exclusive instant replays, food delivery and Fantasy Football lounges – justify a pricier ticket.