Will one of the most high-tech football stadiums in the country help the hapless Arizona Cardinals give fans more victories? Time will tell, but the new $450 million Cardinals Stadium will give fans access to 700 high-definition televisions and wireless Internet service in 95 percent of the stadium.
The Cardinals, together with technology partner Insight Enterprises, have shown how even a team with a small IT department (in this case, just four IT staffers) can create one of the most customer-friendly U.S. sporting venues via ubiquitous wireless access.
“[The Cardinals’] client is the fan,” says Steve Kedzior, senior vice president of Insight’s Client Solutions. “We had to look at it from their perspective. How can technology improve the fan experience?”
The wireless network, along with more than 800 IP phones, should help Cardinals employees process ticket sales quickly. The flat screens let fans keep watching the game while buying food from vendors and enable the Cardinals marketing department to advertise for upcoming games, events and conferences.
Event planners will be able to tap into the stadium’s large show floor with more than 1,000 IP drops. That floor lives underneath the stadium’s football field, which is installed on a unique, retractable 12 million–pound tray that keeps the grass outside until game day for maximum sun exposure, then gets rolled in.
The new converged wireless and wired network for data and IP voice, which spans the stadium and the team’s satellite practice and training facilities, helps the Cardinals IT team slice, dice and deliver new data to coaches as needed during games.
“They watch so many hours of video, and it’s all digitized now,” says Mark Keller, senior technology director for the Cardinals. “It’s delivered to coaches on their laptop over our backbone.”
Many people will get their first peek at the stadium during the team’s first Monday Night Football game on Oct. 16; it will also host the 2008 NFL Super Bowl.