How technology will serve fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium


The most-talked-about and most-written-about technology in Mercedes-Benz Stadium is overhead – in the halo video board and the retractable roof

But technology will drive many other aspects of the fan experience at the new home of the Falcons, Atlanta United and other events.  

“Everything we’re doing from a tech perspective is with an eye toward enhancing the 360-degree experience for our fans on game days,” said Jared Miller, the stadium’s chief digital officer.  

The $1.5 billion, 2-million-square-foot stadium opens Saturday night with a Falcons-Arizona Cardinals exhibition game. Here’s a primer on the technology you’ll find in the new place, aside from what’s up top:  

Wi-Fi connectivity 

“In terms of technology, (the first question) people ask is, ‘Am I going to be able to get WiFi signal in here?’” said Mike Gomes, senior vice president of fan experience for AMB Sports & Entertainment, the umbrella company for Arthur M. Blank’s sports properties.  

The answer, Gomes said, is yes.  

The stadium has 1,800 wireless access points and 80 gigabits per second of internet bandwidth capacity. That’s 50 percent more access points and double the capacity of the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium, considered the NFL’s most technologically advanced stadium since its opening in 2014. 

What those techie numbers mean, according to Miller, AMBSE’s senior vice president of analytics and technology, is that 70,000-plus fans will be able to “simultaneously stream video, send messages and post on Instagram or any other social-media platform.”  

The stadium’s WiFi will be “blazing fast,” he added.  

You can test that Saturday night.  

Paperless ticketing 

No paper tickets and no print-at-home PDFs will be available for admission to Falcons or Atlanta United games, as the teams adopt 100 percent digital ticketing.  

Fans will enter the stadium by tapping season-ticket-holder RFID cards that can be worn on lanyards or by scanning ticket bar codes from their smartphones. They also can transfer or resell their electronic tickets to others.  

Gomes said research showed mobile tickets as fans’ preferred option, but he acknowledged “a little bit” of resistance from some longtime Falcons season-ticket and suite holders to the paperless mandate. He said going paperless will cut down on fraudulent tickets.  

Smartphone apps  

In partnership with IBM Cloud, new mobile apps were developed for the Falcons, Atlanta United and the stadium.  

Although stadium-centered information will be accessible through both teams’ apps, a separate Mercedes-Benz Stadium app (coming soon) was needed for guests at other events, such as concerts and college football games.  

A wide range of content about the teams and stadium will be available through the apps, which also feature tools to facilitate advance purchase of mobile parking passes or to receive point-to-point navigation to parking lots or decks through an integration with Waze.  

And then there’s “Ask Arthur.”  

That’s the name of the apps’  artificial intelligence feature that is designed to respond to fans’ questions about the game-day experience or logistics. 

“‘Arthur’ will be your concierge,” Gomes said. “You can ask him questions about the stadium. We trialed this last year to see what are the most popular types of questions fans typically ask on game day. Those are loaded into the system, so (it) recognizes the key words and searches for an answer with a link so you can go find more detailed information.”  

The text recognition tool won’t correctly respond to every question, Gomes acknowledged. But he expects “Arthur” to have a good record. 

Flat-screen TVs

TV screens are ubiquitous throughout the stadium -- some 2,000 of them in all -- to keep the game in view when fans leave their seats.

Cellular service  

“There’s a lot of steel and concrete, and in a building like this you have to have a cellular distribution system built into the stadium,” Miller said. “We’ve done that and enabled it to work with all the major cellular carriers to ensure that their subscribers, our fans, are constantly connected to make calls.”  

Digital signage  

You’ll notice a striking difference between this stadium and most other sports venues: no fixed advertising signage visible from the seating bowl except for naming-rights partner Mercedes-Benz.  

There will be a lot of sponsor advertising displayed during events, but it’ll appear on the LED ribbon boards, halo video board or 101-foot-tall LED “mega-column” rather than on permanent signs.  

This was done in part to allow the building to easily transform for different events, such as the annual SEC Championship football game.  

“When the SEC said they had issues with signage at the Georgia Dome — what to cover, what to remove -- we told them, ‘OK, we’ve cured that, we’ll go 100 percent digital, there will be no signs in the building,’” Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay said. 

“All-digital allows us to not only turn the stadium on a dime but to ‘paint’ the building, make it come alive, for each different event,” Miller said.  

Future proofing  

AMBSE officials said some 4,000 miles of fiber cable in the stadium help ensure it will be adaptable to wherever technology takes the sports experience in the years ahead. 

“I don’t know what technology is going to be out there in five years,” Miller said, “but what we have built is an infrastructure to support whatever that latest and greatest gadget or piece of technology is.”

ALL ABOUT MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM

This story continues a week-long series in the AJC about different aspects of the new stadium. Read previous installments on MyAJC.com:

Retractable roof won’t participate in stadium’s opening

Halo video board, the largest in sports, could be a game-changer

100-Yard Club and other social spaces reflect a trend in sports design


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