Fans ecstatic about Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s AV experience


Atlanta - Mercedes-Benz Stadium Image: Commercial Integrator

The Mercedes-Benz Stadium in US is known globally for its leading-edge technology ever since it opened its doors in August 2017. It is the home ground of NFL’s Atlanta Falcons and MLS’ Atlanta United. It boasts hosting shows of musicians which are a total sell-out and several other events.

A report published in Commercial INTEGRATOR states that the team which worked overtime to help this venue become the archetype for future sports and entertainment complexes – and earning LEED Platinum certification for maintaining highest environmental standards – is walking the extra mile to make it the home of Los Angeles Chargers and Rams. A halo-style video board flies high above the playing field.

Mercedes-Benz USA (MBUSA) is enhancing the fan experience with the introduction of its all-new Augmented Reality (AR) experience at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

People worked through the sweat of their brow to make the venue a technological marvel. In fact, a retractable dome, one of the highlights of the stadium – made all the hard labour go in vain.

During the monsoons, the roof wouldn’t close properly, and the base of the building got flooded, and the technology that was so meticulously planned and placed was at peril. It was through this technology that owner Arthur Blank had approved in an effort to bring his fans the most immersive experience possible.

The technical wizard who helped Blank realize his high-tech visions and made people in the sports and entertainment fraternity go green with envy, are today pleased with the end result.

An AVIXA Experience event held few months back at the stadium discussed at length the planning, the execution and the future of Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

With the help of voice commands, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and AR, guests are in total control and create their own customized and immersive experience to make lifelong memories with local sports stars. Imagine activating a joyride through the panes of reality with Atlanta Falcon Calvin Ridley or United’s Michael Parkhurst by simply saying “Hey Mercedes…” and letting the all-new Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) technology handle the rest.

Once match is over, the scene at the AR station takes on a whole new meaning – guests get access to replicas of the Atlanta United and Falcons locker rooms. Fans can dive into the world of AR experience and converse with their sporting heroes. It is a dream-come-true moments for fans who always cherish to participate in these behind-the-scenes actions. This display brings those wishes to life.

“We are thrilled to bring this innovative AR technology to our hometown Atlanta fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” said Monique Harrison, Department Head of Brand Experience Marketing. “This dazzling reimagining of the fan experience parallels the ever-evolving technological advancements of Mercedes-Benz automobiles and offers fans an opportunity to interact with the brand in a fun new way.”

The building has enough fiber optic cable to go from Atlanta to LA and back, for one thing and the stadium uses solar panels and water conservation as just a couple of ways of remaining focused on the world outside. Mercedes-Benz is the first arena to introduce an all-digital ticketing system and has gone cashless for all concessions.

Future-Focused Planning at Mercedes-Benz Stadium

“We started looking at where venues needed to go,” remarks Danny Branch, CIO of AMB Sports & Entertainment, pointing out that the planning for the stadium started in 2010.

“We’re competing with people watching games on their 70-inch TVs on their couches. A big part was making sure the infrastructure was future-flexible. By the time a lot of these stadiums open, they’re already way behind in terms of the demand their fans have on the systems they’ve installed,” he further points out.

Branch terms the experience at Mercedes-Benz Stadium as “a digital immersion” of content. “We’re really focused on that experience from end to end,” he affirms.

Commercial INTEGRATOR reports that Dean Brantly, Executive IT Specialist and Senior Construction Manager at IBM, revealed that initially the IT company was in no mood to bid for the Mercedes-Benz project when the concept first was in the works in 2013-2014. Later, they changed their mind.

“We came back with a proposal that was so far out in the future that they decided to do it,” he says. IBM built a lab a little distance away from the stadium’s future home and did a mock-up and tested almost every component before installing it in the building.

“That resulted in the Falcons being able to pick the best of the best,” states Brantly.

It also meant about 99 percent of the 15,000 devices in and around the building worked properly the first time, he says. That includes 4,800 miles of fiber optic cable, 15,600 ethernet points, 4,200 speakers, 98 miles of audio cable, 1,800 Wi-Fi ports, 420 door security access control points and 7 terabytes of RAM.

Apps were developed by the information technology company for the Falcons, United and the stadium itself along with a Siri-style program called ‘Ask Arthur’ that helps fans to plan their program on the day of the match well in advance while they are at their home.

As 10 to 15 events are held every week in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the ownership wanted to be doubly sure that the technical apparatus of the venue was sturdy and would outlast. The ownership also made sure that they were working with partners who wouldn’t be in a tearing hurry to pick up the next job as soon as they were done with the installation.

Apart from the technical machinery in and around the field area and the seating bowl and luxury suites, the stadium enjoys about 60 huddle rooms, four large meeting rooms, a corporate boardroom, informs Doug Stancil, Director of Special Projects at Baker Audio Visual. “It’s all outfitted with fiber optic cable”, he further informs.

Some of the relevant collaboration was made possible after Barco ClickShare was executed throughout, says Brian Emerson, Regional Sales Manager at Barco. “We were happy to be able to fill a need,” he further says.
Tom Sullivan, Managing Engineer at Diversified, comments, “Some of the equipment, including the IP video system, represented literally the first products in new lines for certain manufacturers.” They were both excited to be the guinea pig but nervous with the stakes so high in a project so well-publicized.

“You hear people talk about being cutting-edge or even bleeding-edge, but everything we did, they hadn’t even pounded the steel to make the razor blade yet,” he further comments.

Diversified put in place two production switchers – one for the massive halo-shaped video board which was in the news much before Mercedes-Benz Stadium opened, and another for the 2,500 displays around the stadium.

We always try to build a system with as much flexibility as possible,” says Sullivan.

“We made changes up to a few weeks before the opening and we’re still making them now. If you don’t push the envelope, people will tend to get bored. We didn’t look at it as a stadium. We looked at it as a presentation system for 72,000 people,” Sullivan adds.

Making Game Day More Interactive

Curtis Walker, Technology Director at Dimensional Innovations, informs that there are about 30 sponsor activation areas in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The activation areas enable fans to interact with each other and create precious moments.

“We wanted these brands to have an experience inside the stadium. We’re setting a new bar of what the fan experience is. They didn’t just want a bunch of corporate logos all over the stadium. We never lost sight of the fan experience while developing these sponsorships. These brands are subtly attaching themselves to these experiences,” avers Walker.

Walker says that more than two hours before match starts, about 6,000 people enter Mercedes-Benz Stadium – and all for the added attractions like the variety of retail and pocket-friendly concession options [all cash-free, by the way]. It makes security lines move faster closer to kick-off and makes it “Instragrammable moments”.

“The way we all looked at this project was: If you build the fan experience, they will come,” says Walker.

Ben Dolinky, Video Engineer at AMB Sports & Entertainment, couldn’t agree more that it’s a different world – “It’s a shared experience of expectations for us and the fans. People are expecting to be able to see and hear the game if they’re in line or not inside the seating bowl. We really try to listen to what they’re wanting us to do and respond to that.”

“It’s about how it’s all connected. No matter where you go, you’re actively connected to what’s going on on the field. We didn’t have a palette to work with at the time, but we have staffs that are always trying to innovate and do new things,” says Dolinky.

The United continue to pull in fans by the horde and the facility has already hosted Super Bowl LIII, MLS Cup and an SEC Championship football game with the 2020 Final Four on the horizon. Dolinky states that since fan presence is enormous, there is a huge responsibility on them to create unique experiences for the spectators – once they have never experienced before.

“The idea is to get people to come here and get more of the environment,” he says.

“The goal of the venue is to get those fans here and keep them coming back. When you come here, there’s an expectation of going to a shared space of experiencing things they never have before.”

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