3D replays, gambling, no parking

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PITTSBURGH (AP) – As the world has come to a standstill for extended periods of time in the first 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic, stadiums, arenas and stadiums have followed suit where the screams and cheers (and boos) from thousands of sports spectators once echoed in collective euphoria.

For those looking to the future, the empty seat bands represented a blank canvas – raising fun and fantastical visions of what the world around games will be like 10, 20, or even 50 years from now.

Multi-billion dollar stadiums that look like something “The Jetsons”. Viewing technology in the stadium that makes many of today’s Jumbotrons look like quaint analog TV. Stadium complexes that look more like self-contained cities than a collection of tens of thousands of hard plastic seats. Holograms on the ground reconstructing a spectacular touch. The asphalt seas normally reserved for parking are disappearing.

Even though fans have started to reunite with their beloved teams in recent months, questions remain about what the stadium experience will look like in the future.


The pandemic has given professional franchises and colleges a glimpse of a world without fans.

For some, it has forced them to rethink what their sports palaces offer fans in addition to a game and, in some cases, accelerated existing innovation plans.

“In my generation, all you had to do was play a good game on the field and give me a place where I could see it, and I would be happy,” said Pete Giorgio, director of American sports practice. with Deloitte Conseil srl. “These days you have to produce a larger experience. It is not half time entertainment.

It is something much, much bigger.

“You see this proliferation of things like fantastic lounges in stadiums and areas where fans can interact, as well as new and different pricing models for tickets and ticket packages,” Mr. Giorgio said. “More and more you will see teams embracing the larger experience – not just the experience of watching the game, but your wider experience of sport and your wider experience of entertainment as they add new game options. catering and add new things to do around the stadium.

“Owning and driving and helping with that wider experience around the game, I think it’s a great place that a lot of organizations are going to go to. “

Losing the fans

Before March 2020, the relationship between fans and the sports they consume live was already evolving, if not deteriorating.

In 2019, college football attendance hit its lowest level since 1996, marking the eighth time in nine years that the national average has fallen.

Prior to a slight increase in 2019-20, participation in Division I men’s college basketball nationwide had declined for 13 consecutive years. The average attendance of Major League Baseball is down 13% in 2019 compared to 11 years earlier. That same year, even the powerful National Football League recorded its lowest attendance rates in 15 years.

The decrease in crowds had triggered changes.

Since 2010, 21 of the 30 MLB franchises have seen their stadium capacity reduced at some point or have moved to a new, smaller site. Twelve NFL teams had done the same by this time. A December 2019 New York magazine article even predicted that over the next decade a professional league would experiment by playing soundstage games to maximize the home viewing experience.

The reasons for these declines vary, but they hinged around a larger idea: What was the value of the in-person sports watching experience in the 21st century?

“I wouldn’t be shocked if live attendance was significantly lower in the post-pandemic era than it was in the pandemic era,” said Brad Humphreys, professor of economics at West Virginia. “It’s not hard to imagine that people realized that they can have so much fun following the Steelers on social media, watching the games on TV and interacting with other fans on the media. social. “

The question then becomes quite simple: What are these franchises and schools doing to create an experience that fans can only have within the walls of the venue?

Mobile ticketing just the start

Some of this work has taken place in recent years. Many franchises and organizations have increased their digital footprint, investing more in team-released applications and over-the-top multimedia services.

Through the official Steelers app, fans can access real-time replays and game stats, report an incident, receive help navigating Heinz Field and use the augmented reality technology available on the screens of the Great Stadium Hall, where the team’s Super Bowl trophies and a The Terrible Towel exhibit is located.

On that same app, fans can use mobile ticketing – an initiative that the Steelers and professional sports teams are increasingly championing.

Although some guests’ failure to download tickets to their phones resulted in long queues at the team’s home opening in September – a snafu the franchise is working on – the vice president of Steelers sales and marketing Ryan Huzjak said mobile tickets are easier to transfer and associated with less fraud, among other benefits.

“If anything happened, contract tracing or whatever, with a paper ticket, it was largely an anonymous device,” Huziak said. “You don’t know who has this ticket.

“With a mobile ticket, you have a better connection with the actual participant. These things have become critical in terms of reviewing the logistics of communicating with fans, changing policies, updating policies or just general information and preparation.

Even before the pandemic, teams were doing what they could to deliver more than just a game to fans who approached stadiums, arenas and stadiums on match day, turning blocks around a venue into neighborhoods. Entertainment.

It’s a development that was an important part of “The Future of Sport,” a 2015 report from Attention Span Media, an agency that works with management teams on strategy.

Projects like Ballpark Village in St. Louis and Patriots Place in Foxborough, Massachusetts, are examples of a larger trend that the report describes as stadium space expanding “outward to include greater variety.” of ways fans can experience match day. … Tickets will no longer be sold only for seats in sight of the field; open-plan venues will provide access levels that allow fans to navigate the complex. The tailgating experience will come inside the doors.

“It’s like whole malls that are attached to stadiums and outdoor green spaces and stuff,” said Josh McHugh, editor of Attention FWD, the content arm of Attention Span Media. “I think you’re going to see a lot more, just better use of space and stadium operators who will figure out how to keep people there longer so you don’t just drive, go to the game. and leave. You make it a day or maybe a night.

This was just one of many screenings featured in “The Future of Sports” on the stadium experience. He envisioned a future five to ten years after its release that included video walls integrated into the stadium’s architecture, holographic replays on the pitch, and three-dimensional, bezel-less technology in luxury boxes.

With self-driving cars and ridesharing services that drop fans closer to the stadium – and fans don’t necessarily make it to games – the asphalt seas that surround many stadiums could be significantly reduced, with tailgating and tailgating. other pre-match festivities moving inside the larger stadium complex.

It doesn’t stop there. Mr McHugh said apps are under development similar to Waze, the popular navigation app, which could be used in stadiums. A fan will tap where they want to go, whether it’s the bathroom or the concession stand, and it’ll show them the way to do it that takes the least amount of time.

This year, the Steelers introduced mobile ordering for dealerships. Mr Huzjak said they would look to expand their offerings in the coming years, from self-service to presentation options that will allow attendees to get products faster and more efficiently, thereby reducing long queues. with which any sports fan missing a key game is painfully familiar.

Then there is augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR). Using AR technology, a fan can zoom in on different parts of the pitch, isolate a room, and get a personalized replay. In essence, that would make fans the producers of their own custom shows.

“One of the big drawbacks of going to a game live is that something will happen in the stands… you will have a conversation or you will watch part of the game and something remarkable will happen and you” it’s okay miss me, ”McHugh said.

“You always hope they caught it and play it again on the Jumbotron, but that doesn’t always happen. Being able to control your own live production is going to be a fantastic addition to the mix.

Skin in the game

No conversation about the sport in 2021 can be detached from the game, including how it affects how fans at a stadium or arena consume the matches they’re there to see. In August 2020 alone, Americans wagered $ 2.1 billion on sports, a record in a month at the time.

Capital One Arena and Nationals Park in Washington have indoor sports betting. The Phoenix Suns have one added to their arena, and in August, the Arizona Cardinals struck a deal to become the NFL’s first team with a bookie on the spot.

Like dozens of other professional teams, the Steelers have partnerships with sports betting companies – in their case, BetMGM and Unibet.

The way teams integrate play during a game – apps where fans can place live bets or game lounges inside the stadium, for example – could have a big role in shaping of their present and future financial success.

“It has contributed to the value of the teams because it is now a profit center and it has kept the interest of the fans,” said Ronald Dick, associate professor of sports marketing at Duquesne University.

“I hear people say, ‘I can’t watch a sporting event unless I have a little skin in the game. Even though it’s a small bet, I need to have a few bucks on it.

But back to the game

For all the accessories, features and attributes that will make the stadiums, arenas and stadiums of the future radically different from what they are today, the central appeal will remain. Any bells and whistles can help keep fans’ attention, but it’s the game that gets them there in the first place.

“The underlying attraction is there,” said Mr. Giorgio, the executive of Deloitte. “He’s been there for thousands of years.

“People want to go to sporting events and see sporting events and have that collective experience. I don’t think it’s going to go away. It’s just what people expect around this that is going to be important.

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