VTS 2010: New Meadowlands Stadium a Model Partnership
On Nov. 10, more than 200 sports-technology professionals gathered at the New Meadowlands Stadium for an in-depth look at football’s newest home. New Meadowlands CTO Peter Brickman and VP of Design and Construction Robert Jordan kicked off SVG’s third-annual Venue Technology Summit, a day of panel discussions and virtual tours, with an overview of the $1.6 billion project.
“We have more shades of grey than any building every built,” Jordan said. “It is an agnostic building but a home team building to both teams. Square footage is the difference here. We have gone from a two-concourse building to a six-concourse building.”
Technology Leads the Charge
Locked in a conference room for two days during the planning phase, the Giants, Jets, and New Meadowlands Stadium planning team came up with several design principles that the new building should meet. At the top of that list was a fully converged network, populated now by services ranging from security to guest services, and the establishment of a common database for each team, covering ticket sales, food sales, etc.
“We start creating our own relationships,” Jordan said. “We track what time does a fan show up, where do they go, what do they eat, and what do they want.”
Other design principles included the ability to provide access for all applications and interactions, the ability to change cultures for each team to create a team-centric atmosphere, and the ability to involve all stakeholders, internal and external, in the design mix.
“From day one, we said we were going to let technology lead the charge in the design of the building,” Jordan said. “Those elements had to take precedence over everything else, or this would not work. We wanted to provide technology that surpasses any other environment. Fiber was one thing that was not going to become obsolete over the next 10 years, so we were all about fiber.”
Expanding Game Day Beyond the Stadium
Jordan also emphasized that the new stadium amasses the largest collection of video in sports. Although the stadium does not have the largest board in the league, between the four in-arena video boards, the ribbon boards, and the 20 video pylons surrounding the stadium, the stadium helps to convey the game-day experience from the moment fans arrive.
“Between the mobile apps and team Websites,” he added, “we can start immersing our fans in that brand for 12 and 14 hours in a day, and that is something that has not really been tried before.
In creating a building with a converged network, New Meadowlands Stadium worked closely with Verizon and Cisco to pull multiple types of data — audio, video, security, communications, business — into a safe and redundant environment. More than 500 access points bathe the building in WiFi to ensure that every fan stays connected.
No Such Thing as SD — Almost
When it came to the control room, Brickman wanted to have a facility that equaled or surpassed what would be available in a mobile-production truck.
“We want to provide fans with unbelievable visuals on the 20 pylons and four boards, as well as ribbon boards, drop boards, and other displays,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that it provided a competitive environment for the teams. In football, those boards are used by the teams when challenges are made, so we’ve effectively created multiple channels of replay to get Rich [Gentile, Jets senior director of broadcasting and multimedia,] and Don [Sperling, Giants VP and executive producer,] as much information quickly to their coaches as possible.”
Inside New Meadowlands Stadium, there is no such thing as SD — except for the elevator screens. “There was no way around that,” Brickman said.
Home-Field Advantage for Both Teams
Sperling and Gentile both took the stage to discuss their challenges in turning a grey building blue or green, respectively.
““The goals were to monetize our assets, find revenue streams, drive brand awareness, and create-home field advantage,” Sperling said. “We’ve really been able to take all of these distribution channels, plug in our brand, and introduce our sponsors.”
A great deal of cooperation went into the project, from making compromises on control-room equipment to changing over the physical control-room space on game day. Both teams, however, want to ensure that fans enjoy their game-day experience.
“We don’t want people to think that they can have a better opportunity at home than they have here,” Gentile said. “We have the same philosophy in the plaza as in the bowl: entertain as much as we can. If you give them a reason in those plazas to be entertained, we have more than enough vehicles to get all of our goals accomplished. Without overdoing it, we’ve got an option for everybody.”
Future-Proof, for Now
Today, New Meadowlands Stadium is a state-of-the-art facility, and Brickman is confident that the technology his team put in place will keep the stadium ahead of the curve for at least a few years.
“I think we’re here for five to seven years without major changes to the environment, possibly 10,” he said. “But ownership has been very open to providing a business case for getting new technology in here. I don’t think we’re going to get a major sea change in video like we did with HD, but, if something comes in, we’re going to have it, and we’re going to make it work.”