Fans of the San Francisco 49ers have a whole new reason to attend games with smartphones in hand. The NFL team’s newly opened home, Levi’s Stadium, has been equipped with a massive WiFi system that makes it easy for fans to gain admission, find seating, send texts, order food, locate restrooms and view replays.
As reported by columnist Troy Wolverton in the San Jose Mercury News, the 49ers earmarked roughly $125 million for Levi’s technological system, a significant portion of the Santa Clara, Calif., stadium’s $1.3 billion budget.
With smartphones bringing rapid changes in the realms of communication, transportation and leisure, 49ers COO Al Guido quipped that his team "wanted to make [Levi’s] a smart stadium."
Linking 12,000 Ethernet ports to a 40-gbps Internet backbone, Levi’s system connects smartphones and cameras at 10,000 times the speed of regular broadband. The 68,983-capacity stadium also features nearly 17,000 Bluetooth beacons that fans can use to find the nearest restrooms and food counters. Equipped with an internal cellular antenna, the system solves the bandwidth issues that often come into play when thousands of attendees check messages and send texts from crowded locations.
According to 49ers tech vp Dan Williams, the system has been designed to make attendance easier and more enjoyable at Levi’s sporting events, where fans can even view replays of game action missed during moments away from their seats. Analysts insist that these technological functions will be key to the new stadium’s appeal to incoming generations of sports fans, who’ve grown accustomed to mobile options in nearly every area of life.
Following a 27-month construction period, Levi’s Stadium held a huge opening ceremony on July 17. The stadium serves as the 49ers new home after a 43-year residency at the soon-to-be-demolished Candlestick Park in nearby San Francisco. In advance of the opening, the team launched the Faithful 49 program, where fans can earn points by viewing and "liking" 49ers-related content on social media.
With its numerous innovations, Levi’s places the 49ers into a select group of sports teams to harness mobile technology as a fan-connecting tool. Fellow Bay Area teams the San Francisco Giants and the Golden State Warriors have also installed WiFi networks at their respective stomping grounds: AT&T Park and the Oracle Arena.