Comment: Venues for Fans

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Technology, a new sports venue ... shake, don't stir and what do you have? By Mickey Charles, president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US.

Certainly not James Bond at the controls but, possibly, the best conceivable experience for both service providers and the spectators. It would be easy to say that all which is necessary to create this is at our fingertips but that is only because we are just vaguely aware of what is on the horizon, a horizon that is limitless. But, for the present, this is not the stadium of your youth. Far from it. And, more interestingly, money is not an object nor a hurdle. [Dallas] Cowboys Stadium proved that by going over the $1bn mark. Are you kidding me? Jerry Jones, team owner and orchestrator of this sports monument, went out, got the funding, hocked whatever he had to and did this Texas style. Hell, he should have purchased a small planet where they might have played their games and called it Cowboys in the Skies. Their logo, after all, is a star. MEI crafted a roundtable discussion to address this subject and sought out acknowledged and recognised experts who could address Venue Tech. Understood and each addressed what they perceived as necessary for all who would avail themselves of the heightened and advanced technology available today and likely to become passÉ within the coming months. Consequently, room and elasticity for improvement has to be an integral part of any technological plan. Where do you start? One would say the fans, another the teams. . . the combatants, still someone else will cater to the media, and yet another to the vendors. One does not presuppose lessening what you will do for the other so each must be treated independently and then, when they intertwine, interact, overlap, so much the better. I am a fan. I want to see instant replay on giant screens. I want to see it in slow motion whenever a decision on what is, was or could have been, is required. I want as many high definition sets as possible throughout the stadium. . . on the concourses where I can watch the action as I go for drinks and food, in the bathrooms (the new Yankee Stadium has a set over every urinal), the expensive sponsor booths. I want Wi–Fi, mobility that is uninterrupted. Venues outside of the U. S. want to deliver video, content, broadcast in multiple languages and have facilities in our country set up for them to do so back to their respective home countries. All need replay (video), post game clips for news broadcasts and game summaries, displaying on Internet sites and very much more. But, it is more a matter of a wish list and accommodating same than it is detailing what should be done in a feature such as this. My function then would only be to repeat the obvious and, candidly, I am not needed for that. I leave it to common sense and the professionals among us. The technology of today is yesterdays excitement tomorrow and adaptation of what replaces it is top of the list. Apple proves that all the time. Get up at 4:00 a. m. to be there when the store opens, find yourself behind 30–40 others and, by the time the store opens and you hand the clerk your credit card, there is an announcement on the tube about the introduction of the next developmental stage of that which you just purchased. Replacement of, or adding to, that which is already installed at any multi–zillion dollar newly constructed or revamped venue is not as easy as Joan Rivers making another appointment with her plastic surgeon for a nip here, a tuck there. There are no limits to what can be done technologically. You want specifics, I crave comfort and entertainment. You want a listing of technological advancements, I want to know how quickly I can park, order my food and have it brought to my seat if I wish, see the game wherever I may go in the venue, have really comfortable seats with unobstructed views everywhere, huge in–stadium screens, scoreboards with instant updates of all other contests taking place at the same time, uninterrupted mobile access. You want to have every modern and current technological advancement. I want a microphone to endorse and applaud that. Every possible aspect of information of interest and/or importance to the media, teams and fans has to be made available. Back up and make ticketing easy, entry to the stadium quick and efficient, signage and directionals to seating areas, the sort that is intended to answer all potential fan questions in easy view. How do the fans get to concession stands they desire without walking halfway around the venue? Eliminate any potential confusion for the fans. Lead them technologically throughout their game experience. The teams and media have a laundry list of what they will require. . . broadcast control and efficiency, accessibility to obtain the best vantage points, reliability. . . as has been pointed out by others asked the same question(s). You are on the Star Ship Enterprise of Star Trek fame to boldly go where no man has gone before. It is that simple. That is the mandate. The Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas can seat 110, 000 demanding and frenzied fans. There is no end to what will make them happy. Further, there does not seem to be a ceiling on the cost of what it will take to enhance the technological experience at a particular venue. Budgets become meaningless and the potential of return negates excessive costs in favour of doing what is necessary. What has been stated is ongoing and undeniable truth. . . the evolution of technology that caters to, and meets the demands of, that which is ever ongoing unfolding. . . HD, 3D, instant replay, slow motion replay, bandwidth, Wi–Fi, fan comforts, accessibility through more moving stairways than stairs themselves, broadcasts that extend to giant screens in the parking lots, construction of tail–gating facilities for early arrivals, more connectivity of wireless networks – is there anyone at all within the venue that is not carrying a mobile phone. . . maybe two? It is incumbent upon anyone seeking to construct a new sports venue anywhere in the world to visit Cowboys Stadium in the US, in Texas. If you are improving upon one, the same holds true. " Because we are Americans and know more? Of course not. Get over that. Because it is simply the showcase venue from which you can learn much and from which you can improve upon what you have in mind. Or, conversely, you can see what they have done and improve upon that. They will not be insulted nor offended in any way. They will consider it a compliment. Nothing is original for more than a few seconds within the technological world we inhabit currently. Savor that and benefit from it. That is an advisory that is akin to suggesting you fly, rather than walk or drive, to that distant destination. Dallas called in HP and told them what their goals were. Not a difficult decision to make. They met with their vendors and asked what they needed, wanted, what was their wish list. For cell signals, they called upon every major carrier. . . AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T–Mobile and Metro PCS. There was no ego or priority on brain power. How does 884 Cisco wireless points to bring Wi–Fi to the 3m square foot stadium sound? More than 40, 000 wired ports, all connected by more than 8 million feet of Ethernet cabling? Add 1. 4m feet of fiber optics in the stadium consisting of one enormous OC12 ring and a smaller backup OC3 ring? That is what it takes and all you have to do is multiply that many times when considering an Olympics venue that will, for all intents and purposes, only be there for a few weeks although, yes, much will be used post–events but certainly not to the extent of the Olympics themselves. Just shake, do not stir to any degree, be careful and introspective, cast a glance at budgets. . . not much more, and ask for lots of input while studying what all other have done anywhere and everywhere. Add your own brilliance; shake and the result will be predictably tasteful and successful. About Mickey CharlesMickey Charles is president and CEO of real–time sports wire service The Sports Network (TSN), based in Philadelphia, US. For further information about The Sports Network, visit: www. sportsnetwork. com. The Sports Network2200 Byberry RdHatboro, PA 19040 Tel: +1 (215) 441–8444 Fax: +1 (215) 441–5767The views expressed in this article and throughout the MEI site are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Major Events International.

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