HOK’s John Rhodes on Trends Influencing Today’s Stadium Tech
By Community | March 27, 2018
John Rhodes, director of HOK’s global Sports + Recreation + Entertainment practice discusses trends influencing today’s stadium tech with iSportconnect.
Many see stadiums as simply bowl structures and nothing more. As an architect who’s worked on numerous stadiums across the globe, there’s so much here dividing modern builds – not least of all technology.
In the days of social media, globalism, and connectivity, stadium design is about much more than designing good seating with nice sight lines. These venues are significant community anchors and catalysts for regeneration. Maximising this potential requires an incredibly thoughtful design response. The best stadiums embody the local culture and sport, giving teams meaningful ways to connect with their communities.
As fans become more sophisticated and content providers offer more rewarding at-home viewing options, live events must include technology-driven and highly immersive experiences. To compete with the sofa, stadiums need to offer exceptional match-day experiences to create value. This goal influences many aspects of the stadium experiences we design.
Every event begins with a ticket. E-ticketing and other emerging technologies can help bypass traditional turnstiles and create a faster, more flexible entry experience. This becomes more important as, while fans historically have travelled in twos or threes, social media has increased the size of groups attending games together, meeting easily prior to an event.
Today’s fans enjoy hospitality-driven experience, expecting multiple standing room gathering spaces that combine dynamic digital displays, interactive messaging, and social media content to provide total connectivity and information. The content on these channels must be curated to be audience-appropriate and create a strong emotional connection between fans, players, and sponsors. This integrates virtual connectivity with a hospitality-driven physical environment, complete with unique, healthy food, beverage, and retail offerings.
Sponsor and Partner Support
Stadiums are also excellent opportunities for sponsors and partners to reach out and interact with their customers and consumers. Digital facades, projection, and responsive wayfinding all expand digital inventory and touchpoints, which forward-thinking teams can maximise commercially via their partners. With the advent of sophisticated beacon technology allowing push communications, fans can enjoy highly targeted, relevant messaging.
The surrounding precinct developments can benefit from leveraging the stadium’s core IP network and public Wi-Fi, creating connected communities where the experiential footprint extends beyond the seating area and into the wider district. Inclusivity and trying to make games more accessible to fans is a top priority, a positive match experience from each fan being vital. The prospect of hearing impaired fans being able to use smart glasses to experience augmented reality ‘broadcasting’ of live subtitles is quickly becoming a reality.
It isn’t just the fans and sponsors who benefit from the embedded technologies that are part of new stadium builds. Smart building technologies also generate operational efficiencies. An example of this is using technology to track the quality of the light on the pitch for the groundsmen, indicating when to deploy pitch lighting, or even when it’s time to re-turf.
Football grounds may formerly have been simple seating bowls. Today though, technology hasn’t just revolutionised the fan and sponsor experience; it has created opportunities for a new generation of stadiums to provide transformative digital platforms that help their owners and communities thrive in our experience economy.