The New Meadowlands Stadium, the new home for the NFL's N.Y. Giants and Jets teams, is the latest example of a high-priced sports arena armed with the latest technology designed to ramp up the experience of sports fans going to the games.
At a press conference Aug. 23 at the East Rutherford, N.J., complex, which was inaugurated when the two teams met in a preseason game Aug. 16, executives from the Giants, Jets and New Meadowlands Stadium, as well as partners Cisco Systems and Verizon Communications, outlined the technology found throughout the $1.6 billion structure.
The executives boasted that the technology in the New Meadowlands Arena-from the digital signage to the fiber optics to Cisco's StadiumVision product-make the stadium the most cutting-edge in the world.
"One of our main goals when building the stadium was to enhance the fan experience," John Mara, president and CEO of the Giants, said at the press conference, which also was Webcast. "We decided early on that we wanted to be the most technologically advanced stadium in the world. ... When our fans enter the stadium, they'll feel like they're stepping into the future."
The teams invested more than $100 million in technology for the 82,500-seat stadium, and partnered with Cisco and Verizon on the project. The technology includes four high-definition video display boards that measure 30-by-118 feet and are situated in each of the stadium corners, giving fans a close-up view of the action and instant replays.
More than 2,200 HD displays that are powered by Cisco's StadiumVision technology in such areas as concession stands and team stores enable the New Meadowlands team to quickly post information on everything from food menus to special deals on team paraphernalia. Cisco's technology allows for central control of the displays to bring fans customized sports and entertainment information, advertising, promotions and general stadium information, according to Cisco.
HD video will be carried on 34 channels on displays throughout the stadium.
Customization and branding for the teams also will be important, according to the executives. For example, color schemes also are flexible-blue on Giants game days, green when the Jets are playing. The video on the displays also can be changed for other non-football events, such as rock concerts.
All of this is done on an all-IP network supported by Verizon's FiOS fiber optic network, according to Peter Brickman, CTO for New Meadowlands.
"Everything in the building becomes connected," said Ivan Siedenberg, chairman and CEO of Verizon Communications.
Fans will be able to tap into Verizon's high-speed wireless network through applications from Verizon that will give them real-time information on everything from the action on the field and the teams they're watching to what's happening in other games, what's going on at the food concessions closest to them and what the parking, traffic and weather situations are.
Another key is that the technology infrastructure is designed to be easily upgradable, so that it won't quickly become obsolete, and will be able to adopt new technology as it becomes available. For example, 3-D video will play an increasingly larger role in the New Meadowlands Stadium, said Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers.
"You really haven't seen what 3-D can do in sports," Chambers said.
The executives also talked about digital video walls that will use Cisco technology to enable customized Giants and Jets visual and audio content to be displayed in the concourse areas of the stadium, and Verizon also will open a Verizon Studio inside the stadium Sept. 2 to enable patrons to demo products from the vendor, such as FiOS TV in HD and FiOS Internet.
Both Cisco and Verizon have had a hand in new stadiums that recently have been built. Cisco was a key partner in the new Yankees Stadium in New York, and just over a year ago, Chambers was standing next to Jerry Jones, the owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, talking about the technology in the massive stadium in Texas. Verizon was a partner in the N.Y. Mets' new CitiField stadium.
The sports and entertainment field is one that Cisco officials have targeted as a growth market for the company. Cisco has created its Connected Sports unit to offer products-such as StadiumVision-that are aimed to improve the experience of fans attending events.
During a question-and-answer session, stadium and team officials had to fend off questions about the high cost of game tickets and the use of PSLs (personal seat licenses), which season-ticket holders have to pay just to reserve their seats. Several reports asked whether all the technology-and the $100 million spent on it-was worth the ticket price increases that came with it.
The Giants' Mara said the fan experience for those at the stadium will be vastly improved.
"Once you experience the technology, it helps with the game," Mara said. "You'll get a little more out of it."
He also pointed out that most games are sold out, and those few remaining club seats also will be sold out soon.
"Yes we are more expensive now," Mara said. "This is a more expensive building."