Demands on sports stadium Wi-Fi are increasing, and the Golden State Warriors want to keep up. The NBA team recently rolled out a high-speed wireless network in its arena, the Chase Center, to ensure quality connectivity for internet-savvy fans.
The Chase Center in San Francisco is one of many NBA venues that are turning to technology to make games more enjoyable for fans who demand strong internet connectivity. For NBA teams, fast wireless networks in high-tech stadiums can also gather useful information about fan activity.
Consulting firm PwC is working with three NBA arenas to install high-tech capabilities. All want to keep improving them to interact with fans and help with facility management, said Mark Borao, partner at PwC. PwC partners with Microsoft Azure to create smart sites.
The Warriors have deployed 250 HPE Aruba Wi-Fi 6E access points to ensure fans can access the internet from almost anywhere in the Chase Center, Warriors vice president of technology Daniel Busilovsky said. Wi-Fi 6E is a step up from Wi-Fi 6 as the former has download speeds five times faster than the latest technology.
On opening night in October, the peppier network let the Warriors stream an augmented reality image to their phones. Fans could wear all four Warriors championship rings on their finger and share the photo on social media, Busilovksy said.
“It’s our job to provide that connectivity so they can do all of that, but also use their phone however they want,” he said.
The improved network also provides faster access to the Warriors smartphone app, which allows fans to connect socially and commercially. It offers stats, trivia, and rounds, and users can also buy tickets, flights, and food. Through a partnership with food ordering company DoorDash, fans can pre-order meals to pick up, Busilovsky said.
The smart venues Borao is building with Microsoft include an Azure Digital Twin, a full 3D digital replica of the stadium. The virtual model presents live data using sensors fixed throughout the building. These sensors track temperature, humidity, sound, and motion, as well as funnel data to a machine learning algorithm. The model notifies management of any unusual behavior before a system fails.
“By using sensors and humans, you can drastically reduce the cost of running your facility and just make the place safer,” Borao said.
A few weeks ago, he spoke with another NBA owner considering building a smart venue. Two months ago, Borao spoke to another basketball team owner who wanted to install seat sensors to detect fan cheering levels. Using the sensors, the team could distribute loyalty points to the most enthusiastic fans, Borao said.
“The sensor is so sensitive that it can detect if you’re clapping or if it’s just the noise of the crowd,” he said.
PwC did not release team names due to confidentiality agreements.
Building smart communities
Chase Center is a smart arena aimed at becoming what Borao calls a smart community. Venue owners want to build high-tech neighborhoods to foster community and commerce around a particular sports brand, he said.
“They are looking to buy and improve the property around the stadium so they can provide great experiences for fans,” Borao said.
These communities include retail, restaurants and hotels that coexist well with the brand, he said.
The Warriors’ smart community includes Chase Center and Thrive City, an 11-acre lot with shops and restaurants. Wi-Fi 6E is only being deployed in the arena because regulators haven’t cleared it for outdoor use, Busilovsky said.
PwC is working with developers to create a smart community in California, Borao said. The district will have the largest solar settlement west of the Mississippi and acreage for growing produce for farm-to-table efforts.
“They want to do it in a very sustainable way,” Borao said. “They’re not just looking to build a pile of concrete. They’re really looking to do something different and unique for the community.”