Stadiums Of The Future: How Tech Innovations Are Improving Your Experience At The Game

Getty / Mark Nolan

Stadiums are fighting back.

“We are essentially competing with the lounge room,” says Piers Thompson, the director of major projects for the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Attending a game live has a certain romance, but the action replays, 3D technology, and the lack of exposure to the elements for at-home viewers is making life harder for live sporting venues.

“Stadiums are trying to compete with that lounge room environment; spectators have very different expectations now,” Thompson told Business Insider.

One of the biggest issues live venues face, is the fact that in any crowded Australian stadium, it is often impossible to send a text message or make a phone call.

With some many customers in the one place, cellular networks are easily overloaded, Thompson explained. “We don’t hide from that fact.”

The biggest development fans can expect from both the SCG and Melbourne Cricket Club, will be high-speed WiFi internet, which will take the load off phone networks, making it easier for spectators to communicate with their friends during the game.

“I would like to think we would have some sort of Wi-Fi in the next two years,” Thompson said. This would be installed in both the SCG and Allianz, and would cost around $10 million for each venue.

Gerard Griffin, Melbourne Cricket Club General Manager Projects, Strategy & Governance also confirmed to Business Insider that the ground was “investigating its options relating to digital media and WIFI throughout the venue.”

“Following the 2011 AFL Grand Final, work commenced on a $55 million upgrade of the MCG’s Great Southern Stand. The purpose of the upgrade was improve the patron experience across all four levels of the Great Southern Stand through installation of video walls, an IPTV system, and theming and branding projection in function rooms,” Griffin said.

Not so simple

While both Griffin and Thompson said they drew inspiration from venues overseas, in Australia were stadiums are not team-owned it is harder to upgrade them.

Thompson said that while grounds in the United States were “ten to fifteen years ahead” of ones here, in terms of technology, they were owned by one stakeholder who could — if they had the money — do what they wanted.

With multiple codes using the SCG, all with different commercial arrangements, it is harder to organise, Thompson said.

Not just WiFi

It is not just WiFi that could help stadiums. Thompson also said that with better screens, as well as the easier use of social media enabled by the available internet, grounds could run better interactive competitions — especially during longer events such as test cricket, which go one for hours.

“It’s all about how we keep people entertained during cricket.”

Also a key area for development is the synchronisation of point-of-sale technology — which would enable grounds to change the price of food during the game, or direct customers to certain stalls, after making a commercial arrangement with a supplier such as Coca-Cola.

“It’s about providing people with the opportunity to engage.”

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