New Meadowlands Stadium Gets Ready For Some Football

New Meadowlands Stadium has already hosted a number of events, but all eyes (and hands) at the new home of the New York Jets and New York Giants football teams are focused on its first NFL game next Monday night. The goal? To deliver a first-class fan experience. Key to that experience, besides next-generation offerings like free WiFi, will be first-class video productions delivered not only to four 30- x 120-ft. Daktronics scoreboards but also to 20 50- and 60-ft. scoreboards on pylons outside the stadium to entertain fans before they head in for the event.

“This building was built for watching football,” says Robert Jordan CFE, VP of design and construction for New Meadowlands Stadium LLC. “Outside in the plaza, the concourse, and the stages, it is all about activation, but, when you turn into the [tunnel leading to the seats], it is all about focusing on the light at the end and the bowl activity.”

By the time, the 82,500 fans get to that tunnel (fittingly, Monday’s game is the traditional preseason showdown between the Jets and Giants), they will have experienced what is arguably the most impressive video and digital-signage experience in sports stadiums. The pylon boards outside the stadium and on the plaza, for example, will allow NFL fans to watch video of games around the league or video of concerts occurring on one of four stages in the stadium plaza area.

Where It’s All Controlled
Sony has played a key role at the stadium, serving as video prime contractor and working with systems integrator Diversified Systems to build an HD control room that can produce two simultaneous HD shows during each event. An eight-channel EVS server in the control room will handle replays.

Inside the control room, a Sony MVS8000G production switcher and a mix of wireless and hardwired Sony cameras outfitted with Canon lenses will be used to produce the shows for fans. Cameras include the Sony HDC1400R cameras, and Sony PDW700 XDCAM HD camcorders (Sony PDFW1600 XDCAM HD disc recorders are also on hand). Monitoring is done on Sony FWDS47H1 displays.

“The expectation of the fan has grown,” says Steve Stubelt, director of Sony Electronics’ Systems Solutions Group. “And the New Meadowlands Stadium is positioned to give multiple replays, lots of stats, feed video to the board, other displays, and even phones.”

The control room will also distribute video and graphics to more than 2,080 flat-panel LED displays, each dynamically addressable thanks to Cisco’s Stadium Vision system and Harris G7 broadcast graphics systems.

“Each of those screens is its own appliance and can have its own custom message,” says Peter Brickman, CTO of New Meadowlands Stadium. “We can create unique custom experiences that mix data and things like fan responses. We also can originate up to 10 channels, insert commercials, and do L-wraps with scores and other promotional messaging.”

The pylon video boards and the 2,000 LED displays immerse fans in video outside the seating bowl. Inside, the media experience continues in a much improved way. The original Giants Stadium had one video scoreboard located at the top of the stadium. The new facility features a 30-x 120-ft. Daktronics board in each of the four corners as well as a ribbon scoreboard at the base of the second level.

More Programming, More Marketing Opportunities
The aspect ratio of the four boards is 32×9, allowing for two 16×9 program streams to be displayed simultaneously in each corner. One will be dedicated to traditional game coverage and replays; the other stream will include scores, fantasy stats, and other information that many of today’s fans demand. More than 1,000 digital linear-array loudspeakers will ensure a quality audio experience as well.

“As screens get larger, one show can be too dominating and can overwhelm you,” says Stubelt. “More and more stadiums and arenas are going to slice and segment video content for certain devices, clubs, and fans. You will see more specialty programming.”

More programming also means more marketing opportunities tied into activities that occur elsewhere in the stadium.

“Sponsorships used to be about impressions and a big, flat sign,” says Jordan. “But signs don’t cut it anymore. Now it’s about activations and building databases. And fans want to touch and feel something.”

That touching and feeling could actually begin on consumer devices like the Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, and others. The stadium features free WiFi and WiMax for fans as well as solid cellular service. Fans can also eventually expect team- and/or stadium-specific mobile apps to be built, supporting the events in new ways.

“The apps will allow us to stay connected with the fans,” says Jordan. They also promise marketing opportunities like electronic coupons and “loaded tickets,” where the device itself generates electronic tickets and even can be used to purchase food and merchandise.

For now, however, the focus is on nailing down the final details to ensure that the in-bowl and in-suite experience is all it needs to be.

Says Jordan, “It always comes back to football.”