Fans’ ‘check-in’ to ‘Crew’ home a cakewalk


Columbus Crew partners with Aruba Image: MLS

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company announced on October 5th that Columbus Crew (US), the Major League Soccer (MLS) reigning champion, has deployed an Aruba ESP converged wired and wireless network to streamline and automate stadium operations such as ticketing and security, as well as provide reliable, high-performing Wi-Fi and new matchday experiences to fans.

The ‘business wire’ stated that the Crew’s new home Field sits on 12 acres, accommodates more than 20,000 fans and also features a 62,000-square-foot public plaza equipped with a 14’x24’ videoboard to host concerts, watch parties and other public events.

The Columbus Crew are an American professional soccer club based in Columbus, Ohio (US). The Crew competes in Major League Soccer (MLS) as a member of the league’s Eastern Conference and began play in 1996 as one of the 10 charter clubs of the league.

The 20,371-capacity Field is a soccer-specific stadium in Columbus, Ohio, United States. It serves primarily as the home stadium of the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, replacing the club’s previous home, the Historic Crew Stadium.

California (US)-based Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, is the global leader in secure, intelligent edge-to-cloud networking solutions that use artificial intelligence (AI) to automate the network, while harnessing data to drive powerful business outcomes. With Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) and as-a-service options, Aruba takes a cloud-native approach to helping customers meet their connectivity, security and financial requirements across campus, branch, data center, and remote worker environments, covering all aspects of wired, wireless local area network (LAN) and wide area networking (WAN).

The ‘business wire’ further stated that with the vision to create a next-generation seamless fan journey from ticket purchase to the parking lot and through the stadium gates, the Crew deployed a combination of Aruba’s wired and wireless solutions that support the stadium’s technology-enabled amenities, including pervasive Wi-Fi connectivity, opt-in facial recognition ticketing, Evolv Express security screening, and mobile ordering and cashless payment throughout the venue.

Remarked Brandon Covert, Vice-President, Information Technology for Haslam Sports Group, “One of the first things that we really focused on is providing a great connectivity experience, not only in the seats, but everywhere in the stadium. At the gates, when there are 12,000 people waiting to get in and they’re trying to pull up their tickets, or when walking through the concourses at halftime among 20,000 people, it is a very challenging environment for live venues. That is one of the major reasons we pushed really hard towards a very robust Aruba infrastructure.”

The ‘Crew’s’ opt-in facial recognition system is a unique ingress process that starts with ticketing. Fans can log into their ticket account, take a selfie photo and link that picture to their account. When they arrive at Field, a Wicket kiosk connected to the same wireless network identifies the fan’s face and corresponding tickets on their account. Alternatively, fans can use the traditional Ticketmaster barcode scan on their phone.

Added Covert, “The beauty with facial recognition is fans can redeem all of their tickets with one glance versus scanning each separate ticket, it creates a much smoother process. The fan just walks up and takes about a second to look at the Wicket kiosk and their admitted group can walk right through the gates. This technology has cut the time it takes to get into the stadium by more than 50 percent. When it comes to funnelling thousands of fans into the stadium at the same time, this adds up to significant time savings.”


At the former Crew venue (Historic Crew Stadium), the IT team managed disparate parallel overlapping networks in one building. One of their operational goals for Field was to converge everything not only to one network, but extend it all the way through their technology stack for a hyper-converged technology infrastructure.

Covert continued, “We wanted to go with this hyper-converged environment and really push the limits and that led us towards the Aruba and HPE solution over competitors that don’t have that whole breadth of hyper-converged all the way including compute, storage, switching, and more.”

In collaboration with trusted technology partner IBM iX, the ‘Crew’ selected and deployed a future-ready wireless network comprising Aruba Wi-Fi 6 indoor access points (APs), outdoor APs and mobility controllers. For wired networking, the ‘Crew’ implemented Aruba’s access switches at the edge and CX Series switches for aggregation and in the data center. Additionally, the ‘Crew’ uses ClearPass for network access control (NAC) and policy management, and AirWave for network management. They have also implemented NetEdit for coordinating switch configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting.

Maintained Covert, “It was important for us to make network management simple because we’re a smaller team that handles our technology functions internally. We needed a solution that we could maintain and operate easily, and we found that in the Aruba solution.”

‘Crew’ shining

Columbus Crew is the first club in Major League Soccer. The Crew is operated by The Edwards Family and Haslam Sports Group. The ‘Black & Gold’ are the 2020 MLS Cup Champions. The club won its first MLS Cup championship in 2008 and also won the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as MLS Supporters’ Shield titles in 2004, 2008 and 2009. The 2021 campaign is the Columbus Crew’s 26th season in MLS as well as the club’s final season at the Historic Crew Stadium – the first soccer-specific stadium in the United States – and the ‘Crew’s’ inaugural season at the brand-new Field.

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