Has there ever been a better time to be a sports fan? Major League Baseball just had its opening day, "March Madness" is coming to an exciting conclusion, and NHL and NBA team making a final push to the playoffs. Meanwhile, some guy named "Tiger" is the odds-on favorite to win The Masters.
But wait... there's more. Beyond the action on the field, fans are being presented with enhanced experiences thanks to dazzling new developments in technology. Whether it's access to fast WiFi in the stadium or the development of apps and seat-side convenience features, stadiums and arenas are trying to attract fans with more than just the action on the floor.
Here are three developments to watch out for next time you head to a game:
1. In-Seat Vendors Are Accepting Credit Cards
Eight Major League Baseball stadiums will let fans pay for concessions sold by roaming vendors with credit cards. Now, when they come up the aisles offering hot dogs or drinks for sale, fans won't have to search for cash or leave their seats to find an ATM. They'll be able to use their credit cards.
"To begin the season, a handful of in-seat vendors will be armed with devices—primarily iPhones—that accept credit card payments," said David Freireich, a spokesman for Aramark, the food and beverage partner for several MLB teams. Vendors will use iPhones to accept credit card payments, along with Bluetooth-connected devices to print receipts.
Fans of the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, Boston Red Sox, Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and the Toronto Blue Jays will be the first to be offered the feature, but it could expand to other stadiums if it does well.
2. Expedited Security at Stadiums Using Clear
When you hear CLEAR, you're probably thinking of airport security. The company offers an expedited security program that air travelers can enroll in to bypass long security lines when they're flying.
But CLEAR also offers similar services to sports fans. Starting with the 2018 season, CLEAR has been launched in three MLB stadiums this season: SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves; Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, home of the Oakland Athletics, and Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners. These stadiums join eight programs within the MLB, NBA, and MLS to offer the service.
Fans can join CLEAR at the stadiums for free in less than five minutes. The program uses a biometric identity platform to quickly verify people so they can bypass long security lines heading into the stadium.
"Adding dedicated CLEAR Lanes at Safeco Field provides our guests with a quick, convenient way to get into the ballpark—without compromising security," said Trevor Gooby, Seattle Mariners Vice President of Ballpark Operations.
Here's a video CLEAR made to showcase the offering:
3. Turbo-Charged Wifi Options in New Stadiums Allow Fans to Stay Connected
You'd think sports franchises might want to discourage fans from checking their phones while at a game, but that's not the case. More and more stadiums are offering souped-up WiFi options so that fans can tweet, send videos, and get access to upgraded seats through apps on their phones, among other amenities.
Fans also have a tendency to leave their seats at halftime to get better reception. Keeping them in their seats means increased opportunities for concession sales and more.
Perhaps the best example is Levi's Stadium, home of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. Located in Silicon Valley, it's not surprising that fans their have access to high-speed WiFi and 4G. That's thanks to more than 400 miles of cable connecting WiFi routers throughout the arena, along with 1200 antennas.
The result? More than 40 times greater Internet bandwidth capacity than any other stadium in the country. The team has also taken advantage of the connectivity by offering an app that allows fans to order food and drinks directly to their seats, and even find the bathroom with the shortest line.
Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, where the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors play, is another arena touting free WiFi. They claim their WiFi is 17,000 times faster than the average home network.
Barclays Center in Brooklyn, home of the NBA's Nets and NHL's Islanders, also offers fans the chance to jump on their WiFi networks—especially so they'll be tempted to download the mobile app. Through the app, fans can get tickets to other events, buy food and team paraphernalia, watch native videos, and get information about the area surrounding the arena.
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