Cisco, Verizon Take Staples Center to Next Level

The Staples Center in Los Angeles this week dropped the puck on a new season of NHL action — and on a technology upgrade that will provide next-generation digital-signage technology, enhanced WiFi, and 4G cellular connectivity designed to offer a better experience to fans in the suites and beyond.

The most obvious change is the more than 375 flat-panel displays replacing static signs and posters, menu boards, and older CRT televisions in the luxury suites, refreshment stands, and Premiere Level. Powered by a Cisco StadiumVision system based on IP transport, voice, video, and data signals will be able to move to any screen within the venue.

“We’ve had tiny slotted menus at the venue since it opened 13 years ago, and now [digital signage] will allow us to show video, hero shots, and early-bird specials at the concession areas — all real consumer benefits that resonate with fans,” says Todd Goldstein, president of global partnerships for AEG, which owns the facility.

The digital menu boards provide more than just a new look; they are also driving revenues. After some of the screens were put in place at the end of last season, concession revenues increased 9% over the previous year;  when certain items were promoted, revenue was 400% above previous levels.

“We now can have things like dynamic pricing, venue theming, customization for an event like a family event and also promote other events here at L.A. Live and concession items,” adds Goldstein. “The ROI is unprecedented.”

According to Dave Holland, SVP/GM, Sports and Entertainment Group, Cisco, the final technical installation was done in only a couple of months, making it suitable for any existing venue. Suites, for example, now offer fans the ability to watch the live in-arena video, the TV broadcast, or other HD channels. A touchscreen unified IP phone working in conjunction with a Verizon voice-over-IP system controls the screens and, in the second half of the season, will allow touchscreen ordering of concessions and merchandise.

And enhanced connectivity, via 4G cellular signals and WiFi, has extended to those outside of the suites as well.

“Being 4G-capable readies the Staples Center for the next step,” says James Timmons, VP of global enterprise sales, Verizon Communications. “Pushing content like stats out to fans during the game or a coupon to buy an album at a big-box store after a concert makes for a very interactive experience that is built to grow. There are huge growth opportunities.”

For Goldstein and AEG, operating more than 100 venues around the globe, the ability to make the leap to new technology without displacing fans is a win-win.

It also makes for a safer venue. Goldstein points out that, in the event of an earthquake, a push of a button can turn all signs into emergency exits and emergency-management tools.

“We now have an immersive HD experience akin to what the consumer has at home,” says Goldstein. “We are competing with those home experiences, so venues need to do anything to make the experience better, and that means making trips to the concession area shorter.”

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