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Wi-Fi and the Rise of the Mixed-Use Sports Facility

Samsung Enterprise WiFi - Sports Facilities

According to an article in SportsBusinessDaily.com, one of the hottest trends in sports today is the development of the “Live, Work and Play” communities that are being built around the newest mixed-use facilities that your favorite team calls home. Teams are expanding their Wi-Fi coverage outside the stadium and arena walls to connect with fans and customers like never before.

The first teams to do this are the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park and the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena. Both teams are settling into new facilities this year that include an expanded wireless network that offers Wi-Fi coverage into the nearby community. This will allow them to give Wi-Fi access to smartphone and tablet users not only at the facility but in the shops across the street and the restaurants around the corner. More importantly, it allows them to track consumer behavior and capture data outside their facilities in the entertainment, retail, residential and office locations nearby.

Following in their footsteps will be the new Los Angeles NFL stadium, the new Texas Rangers ballpark and the waterfront property being developed by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Others are sure to follow.

This new opportunity will mean better Wi-Fi access for consumers near the facilities, plus an opportunity for a better fan experience for people attending the games. But it also means the potential for revenue streams for the teams that never existed before.

“When you look at all the circulation areas, parking garages, plaza and other destinations, you’re now able to create extensions of your facility on game days and non-game days,” said Bob Jordan, senior vice president of team and venue services for Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment. “You’re now able to have that conversation with your fans before they even get into the building.”

In Georgia, the Braves are taking advantage of The Battery Atlanta, a 1.5-million-square-foot mixed-use location next door. With restaurants, shops and entertainment a short walk from the 41,500-seat SunTrust Park, the Braves are partnering with the nearby businesses to push relevant advertising to the fans that attend the games. Plus, through the baseball team’s mobile app, fans will be able to make reservations at any of The Battery’s local eateries.

“The infrastructure was designed to be able to do that, because we want to have a single fan experience, whether you’re at The Battery or at the ballpark,” said Greg Gatti, the Braves’ senior director of information technology. “Your limitations will be based on what your [mobile device] can actually deliver right now.”

Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena, soon to be home to both the NHL’s Red Wings and the NBA’s Pistons, anchors a similar area called The District Detroit. The project, which is part of the city’s downtown redevelopment covers 55 blocks and a large portion of it will be covered by the arena’s expanded wireless network.

The future in Detroit looks especially interesting due to the fact that the Ilitch family owns both the Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, in addition to the Fox Theatre. Connecting the networks at the theatre, Little Caesars Arena and the Tigers’ Comerica Park would create a huge network that could cover a large amount of real estate that could only benefit the teams and the local business that they partner with.

In past times, stadiums and arenas sat alone, being the lone draw to neighborhoods built to house professional sports teams. Today, teams are realizing they can be part of a much larger community, benefitting everyone around them as well as themselves. And using an expanded wireless infrastructure is just one way they can connect to both businesses and fans alike.

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