Cisco Wires Up the New Cowboys Stadium

As part of a trend of using technology to enhance experience of sports fans, the Dallas Cowboys teamed up with Cisco Systems and AT&T to bring high-end technology to their new $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium. Through its Connected Sports and StadiumVision initiatives, Cisco has created a network that can bring high-definition video, digital content and interactive fan services, all designed to enhance the fan experience and open up new revenue sources for the football team.

It was only eight months ago that Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO John Chambers stood in the new Yankees Stadium with the Steinbrenner family and showed off the technological innovations designed to heighten the fan experience at the new facility.

On June 17, Chambers was again at a new sports venue, this time the new Cowboys Stadium, the massive 100,000-seat, $1.15 billion home of the Dallas Cowboys, and seated next to Cowboys owner and General Manager Jerry Jones.

At a press conference that was streamed on the Internet via a Webcast, Chambers and Jones unveiled the technology that is going into the stadium to enhance the fan experience at the 3-million-square-foot stadium while opening up new revenue streams for the Cowboys organization.

The technology comes from Cisco's Connected Sports program. Part of that is Cisco StadiumVision, which brings high-definition video, digital content and interactive fan services through a single network infrastructure.

The work by Cisco and AT&T follows a trend throughout professional sports to use technology to create a fan experience that transcends and heightens the game in hopes of keeping people returning to the stadiums and ensuring interest in the game.

Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have been aggressive in growing their online presence, while teams such as the New York Yankees are integrating technology into the design of their new stadiums.

Click here to see how the NHL is improving its online presence.

At Cowboys Stadium, that includes having more than 3,000 video screens around the stadium streaming high-definition images from the game, and at differing angles, all designed to ensure that fans who leave their seats to buy food or for other reasons never miss the action on the field.

The screens can be customized, via the StadiumVision technology, to customize what fans see before, during and after the game or whatever event they're attending. People in the more than 300 luxury suites can further expand their video experience through options offered via touch-screen IP phones, which can be used to scan different images.

The goal is to create an experience for fans at the stadium that they can't get at home on television. As Pete Walsh, head of technology for the Cowboys, said during a quick tour of the facility, the team is competing with the living room couch.

Jones agreed.

"We want them to have an experience they can't ever have being at home," he said.

He said that he took to heart the advice from former Cowboy General Manager Tex Schramm, who told Jones to "always be looking for ways for fans ... to get in the players' shoes, or [Jones'] shoes."

Jones said the technology put in place by Cisco and AT&T will do just that.

"Cameras will be all over this place," he said.

That will be important, given how many fans will be out of their seats at a given time, Chambers said.

"You will find that a third of fans will be moving throughout the stadium at any one time," he said. "They will not miss anything [happening on the field]."

In addition to enhancing the fan experience, the technology also will open up new revenue streams for the Cowboys, enabling them to quickly and easily change the stadium digital signage, food vendor lineups-there are 550 digital concession menu boards-and other visuals to suit the fans and the event they're attending.

For example, some of the ads displayed for Cowboys games might not be appropriate for high school football games, Jones said. In addition, a host of other events will happen at the stadium, from concerts to other sporting events to corporate meetings. The digital signage for all these events can be changed with a fraction of the effort it would have taken at the old Cowboys Stadium.

The new stadium already is lined up to host the 2011 Super Bowl, major college football games, the 2010 NBA All-Star Game and the 2014 men's NCAA Final Four basketball tournament.

The stadium officially open June 6 with a concert by country music singer George Strait, and will host the Jonas Brothers June 20. The Cowboys will play their first regular-season game at the stadium Sept. 20 against the N.Y. Giants.

The Cisco Connected Sports platform also gives the Cowboys and Cisco the base on which to build future functionality to meet the changing needs of fans, both Jones and Chambers said.

Chambers pointed out that technology capabilities that many older fans might see as extravagances are viewed as a normal part of modern life to the younger generation that has grown up with wirelessly-connected devices. They demand certainly technological capabilities, and that will only increase in the future. The technology within the stadium will have to be able to adapt to those needs.

"The fans of the future expect that," Chambers said.