Vikings stadium at forefront with technology

The Minnesota Vikings new stadium will be a multimedia experience for fans with smartphones.

It’s rare when sportswriters can quote William Shakespeare and co-opt it, but, as Cassius said to Brutus in “Julius Caesar,” when it comes to Vikings fans preparing to invade the new Minnesota Vikings stadium it would appear the fault lies not in the stars, but in our phones.

From the time the Vikings and the Minnesota Legislature agreed on a new stadium, the Vikings promised it would have all of the state-of-the-art amenities. Since our lives seem to be dominated by smartphone technology, you can’t blame the Vikings for getting in on the act. But the plans the Vikings have are huge and will run the full game-day experience.

The Vikings are currently developing an app that will provide fans heading to the game with unique opportunities throughout game day, according to the Star Tribune. The app will provide fans heading to the stadium with vital information to get them to the new stadium as quickly and hassle-free as possible. The app will provide up-to-the-minute traffic conditions as to which roads to avoid and where the worst backups in traffic are, as well as where parking is available (and at what prices), and directions to get to the stadium entrances with the shortest lines.

The biggest change fans will see, however, is when they get inside the new stadium. For a generation increasingly dependent on getting information instantly from the phones, the Vikings are looking to meet that need on game days.

For fans on the move during the game, there are going to be approximately 2,000 video screens spread throughout the building. The $14 million the Vikings committed to the stadium project last week was centered on adding 1,200 more video screens to enhance the 800 screens that were part of the initial bid package. There likely won’t be an area of the new stadium that fans won’t have a view of the action going on.

But the action will take on a different look thanks to advancements in technology and the Vikings embracing of those advancements.

At the center of the concern as that, thanks to advancements in home television and the NFL’s expansion into TV networks that allow fans to flip instantly from one game to another or watch games that are in the red zone and switch from one to the next, the fear the NFL had was that its TV experience was getting too polished. At times, it seemed like a game could be more enjoyable watching from home than attending a game. The Vikings are looking to change that.

One of the primary ingredients that was part of the initial vision for the new stadium was realizing that we are a society of powerful portable devices that have made many dependent upon them in their daily life. One of the first concerns was making sure that signals in the new stadium would be able to handle the kind of Wi-Fi traffic that will likely be generated by fans inside it. The stadium is in the process of being equipped with one of the largest Wi-Fi signals in the country – enough capability to handle every fan logging into their phones to get information. Most fans will likely be there just to watch a football game, but for those who want more, they’ll get more.

Fans eventually will be able to scan their tickets into their phones for entrance to the stadium and will have the option to order food at a concession stand close to their seats in advance to have it waiting for them when they work their way to the concession stand. Have to go to a bathroom and don’t have time to spare? There will be an app for that. Looking for a specific concession? You’re covered.

However, the biggest change to enhance the game experience as opposed to the home experience will be the availability of replays that will only be seen in the stadium by fans. There will be in-house broadcasts going on that will analyze key plays and players more comprehensively than the network broadcast, as well as showing plays from different angles than the ones shown to the fans at home.

Everybody tries to re-invent the mousetrap in hopes of catching a new audience and being on the front end of the curve. The Dallas Cowboys are the gold standard of trying to provide a game day experience that must be seen in person to be believed. The San Francisco 49ers, with the help of their pals in Silicon Valley, have created a stadium experience that embraces the technological advancements that have become almost second nature to many fans and non-fans alike. Fantasy players can get their fix without having to stray far from the game they’re watching.

Purists will say that such accessibility will change the way fans watch games, arguing they will spend more time looking at their devices than they are watching the game. But, as at least one Viking player would say, the bottom line is that smartphones have become indispensable to many fans, and to ignore the possibilities is to be foolish. If everyone is doing it, you either join in or fall behind the curve.

When the new Vikings stadium opens, they plan to reset the bar for technological advancement and plan to put their money where their mouth is to get that done.

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