Top ten tech-savvy sports facilities from around the globe

These sports facilities are the best in the world from a technology standpoint. Photo: University of Oregon

WASHINGTON D.C., September 24, 2013 — Today’s average sports fan needs more than just a ticket to the cheap seats. Tasty nachos and an occasional T-shirt toss? You’d better bring more than that.

Technology takes precedence in the modern sporting venue. Innovations such as free Wi-Fi, fantasy football lounges and game-day apps trump nostalgia and tradition at every turn. Sports franchises must wrest fans back from a technology age that keeps them at home at kickoff.

High-definition TV, access to games and stats through portable Internet, and soaring ticket prices converge to make the home on-the-couch game experience a viable alternative to the stadium in-the-stands experience.

Anything internet related instantly boosts a facility’s drawing power, not only for fans who itch to connect and share wherever they are, but also for advertisers and vendors to gain a position of prominence – in front of fans’ faces, whether that’s on smartphone screens or concourse flat screens and digital signage.

Plus, if the stadium’s signal strength is too weak to upload pictures to social media at the game, why bother going?

Here are the top 10 facilities worldwide that lead the pack in tech-savvy prowess.

Twickenham Stadium, UK

10. Twickenham Stadium , Twickenham, UK - England (Rugby Football Union) The club’s move to become the most digitally advanced grounds in the union includes a kilometer of a new LED advertising system that encircles the mid-tier and pitch-level bowls. It is a significant upgrade for a historic venue that has hosted rugby for 114 years.

9. Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass. - New England Patriots (NFL), New England Revolution (MLS), University of Massachusetts football Tom Brady to Danny Amendola – touchdown! All 70,000 fans in a capacity crowd can see several camera angle replays as one feature of the Patriots’ game-day app. Gillette Stadium’s Enterasys Internet network provides enough heft to allow free high-speed, high-density Internet to everyone, too.

8. Amway Center , Orlando Florida - Orlando Magic (NBA), Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) It is not all about wireless access, but this arena has that, too. The Amway Center maximizes fan engagement with touch screens and more than 1,100 high-definition and 3D-ready screens. Amway Center’s digital signage is also on a network that can show highlights or display messages to fans.

7. Emirates Stadium, Holloway, London - Arsenal Football Club, English Premiership It is not the mobile device glass, it is the field grass. An elaborate system of drainage and heating, including a permeable bed made of gravel and sand, has sensors to activate and deactivate a fan system to preset variables. The result? When the Gunners play, field conditions are nearly always perfect.

6. AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas - Dallas Cowboys (NFL) The Diamond Vision board, which is 72 feet tall, 162 feet long for 25,000 square feet of display, is the main attraction, but it is what the 100,000 fans in attendance can do; Send photos and videos on their enabled devices simultaneously, with help from 885 wireless access points around the $1.2 billion building.

That is a megawatt operation, for sure. Game-day consumption of electricity can max out at 10 megawatts – roughly three times the capacity of Liberia’s national grid.

Yas Marina Circuit

5. Yas Marina Circuit , Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates One basic innovation: All grandstands are covered, incredible for a 50,000-seat facility with three racing configurations. Yas Marina features air-conditioned support pit garages and a lighting system that reduces glare and is even environmentally friendly, paving the way for day-night F1 racing events.

4. University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. - Arizona Cardinals (NFL) This 63,400-seat venue has both a retractable roof and field. The grass surface rolls out of the stadium on a 19-million-pound tray for sun exposure and irrigation – and for days the venue hosts non-football/soccer events. The roof, made of translucent fabric, takes only 15 minutes to open.

3. Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif. - San Francisco 49ers (NFL) One big edge your house has on a football stadium? No bathroom lines – unless you are in Silicon Valley’s newest under-construction stadium, using its app to find the shortest beer and restroom lines. The coaching staff uses the price-heavy 4k monitors, which are not available to the average consumers, according to a recent article “Are 4K Monitors Really Worth the Ridiculous Price Tag?” in internet news. Already named as the site for Super Bowl L, that is 50 in Roman numerals, Levi’s Stadium developers boast a Wi-Fi network unprecedented in NFL stadiums, mobile connectivity, IPTV and 13,000 square feet of video displays throughout the stadium.

2. The New Georgia Dome , Atlanta, Georgia - Atlanta Falcons (NFL) Ground has not yet broken on this one, and the team has not chosen from two design finalists, both with unique retractable roofs unseen in stadiums to date. The plans include a fantasy football lounge, a “man cave” section to recreate the comforts of your comfy couch at home, and rumble seats – which will vibrate at the same instant the Falcons make a big hit on the field.

The Pantheon plan features a ring of screens around the top of the stadium that would show replays, advertisements and a Twitter feed. The Solarium plan would add enormous screens to the ceiling to give upper-deck patrons an IMAX feel to their Falcons game experience.

1. Hatfield-Dowlin Complex , Eugene, Ore. - University of Oregon Ducks (NCAA) Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife footed the reported $68 million price tag for the 145,000-foot facility for Oregon football. It makes a palace feel like a low-rent flat: Oregon’s Death Star contains hand-woven rugs from Nepal, barbershop utensils from Milan, and Brazilian hardwood floors.

Coaches have a hydrotherapy tub in their locker rooms, and TVs integrated into mirrors so they can catch football footage while they shave. That is not all:

The Football Performance Center’s lobby lights up to the tune of 64 55-inch TVs that can combine to one screen

A 40-yard electronic running track in the weight room keeps data for each step’s force, and each run’s efficiency

Walls all over the facility are magnetic and writable, in Oregon’s quest to go paper-free

The locker room is accessible only through biometric thumbprints, and contains sensors that match indoor lighting to the natural light on the field, so that players’ eyes won’t have to adjust

Each locker is equipped with a ventilation system to remove that locker-room stench

Wait … Oregon’s facility has the technology to overcome the odor of defeat? Stadium-wide Wi-Fi, high-tech field preparation and miles of touchscreens can’t touch that.

Kamden Hills is a sports and technology writer who loves to life life. He began writing for a non-profit that teaches science and technology, he now teaches science and technology at a Charter school. When he is not teaching or keeping up with the Philadephia Eagles, he is researching and writing about the Internet, social media, anything tech related. @KamdenHills


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Kamden Hills

Kamden Hills is a technology writer who travels, a true Philadelphia Eagles fan and loves to live life.  He graduated with a B.A. in Communications with a minor in Information Sciences and Technology for Telecomm. He began his writing career working for a non-profit that teaches science and technology for an after school program. He now teaches science in technology at a local charter school and a part-time writer for @KamdenHills

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