SunTrust Park using tech to improve game experience


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American professional baseball team Atlanta Braves is using venue technology to improve the game experience for fans at the club’s new home at SunTrust Park, according to a detailed report by TechRepublic. The Major League Baseball (MLB) team has tied up with Cisco to bring this digital revolution with an aim of boosting interactive fan experience at the stadium, the report said.

Cisco was an important player designing the tech behind the 41,500-seat SunTrust Park, which opened in April 2017. The stadium is part of a 1.5-million-square-foot mixed-use retail and office development known as the Battery Atlanta.

The crown jewel is the Cisco network used at SunTrust Park and Battery Atlanta, Greg Gatti, the Chief Information Officer for the Atlanta Braves, told TechRepublic.

“We wanted the best Wi-Fi experience of any venue in North America,” he said. The stadium has 200GB of internet bandwidth, and an advanced Wi-Fi design that gives connectivity anywhere in the stadium or the Battery Atlanta.

The report said that the stadium needed an improved and impressive connectivity to retain the fans coming to watch the games. Since 2012, attendance has been slowly declining at MLB games, with fewer fans opting to navigate the traffic around stadiums and paying high ticket prices to see their favorite teams.

In 2007, the highest-attended year in the history of the league, 79.5 million fans attended regular-season games. In 2012, this had dropped to 74.9 million and by 2017, it had dropped further to 72.7 million, TechRepublic said citing a Forbes report.

Now wonder, bringing in new tech and fan experiences as part of a digital transformation was seen as a way to renew interest in this traditional American pastime.

“I think fans [have] very high expectations when they come to your venues these days, especially with professional sports. I think it really comes from our devices. If you think about what you can do with your device these days, pretty much everything, you used to have to have a PC or a laptop, four, five, six, seven years ago. You can do all that on your device now,” Gatti told TechRepublic.

In the past, fans downloaded more content, but now the trend is more uploads as video streaming and photos are being posted to social media during games and events, the report pointed out.

“If you come to SunTrust Park, we’ll give you all the bandwidth that your device can handle with no restrictions,” Gatti said.

The Atlanta Braves IT team, headed by Gatti, worked with Cisco to develop the “one network concept” to make Wi-Fi faster and the experience seamless for fans, according to the report.

One of the surprises was that the technology was expected to generate revenue. “Being honest, a guy in IT like me, I’m used to spending money, I’m not used to being responsible to make money,” Gatti said. “There’s an expectation that the IT spend of 12.5% of the entire project budget for SunTrust Park and Battery Atlanta was for technology. There was definitely the expectation that we were going to be a revenue generator.”

Cisco Vision provided the revenue needed to justify the technology, Gatti said. “That has become a seven-figure a year, new revenue stream for the Atlanta Braves.”

“We have a little over 1,350 screens throughout SunTrust Park and Battery Atlanta, and Cisco Vision powers all those,” he said. Cisco Vision also powers the ad network on the screens, and on 15 kiosks throughout Battery Atlanta.

Security was also a crucial component. Gatti said he met with his director of IT infrastructure to discuss security. “The words we used were, ‘we want to add a psychotic approach to security.’ We don’t mean that in a negative way. It was just that important to us. So, security was top of mind.”

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