Venue News: Patriots Install Free WiFi for Fans; TCU Unveils Stadium Renovations

Compiled by Karen Hogan, Associate Editor, Sports Video Group

The New England Patriots will offer free WiFi to all its fans beginning at this weekend’s home opener. Gillette Stadium joins the ranks of the few stadiums that are WiFi enabled, which include MetLife Stadium (Jets/Giants), the Georgia Dome (Falcons), Lucas Oil Stadium (Colts), Raymond James Stadium (Buccaneers), Mercedes-Benz Superdome (Saints), Bank of America Stadium (Panthers) and Sun Life Stadium (Dolphins).  Although the league sells 96% of the tickets it has available, the NFL is losing ground because of fans who feel they are out of the loop on other games and fantasy stats while sitting in the stands cheering for their teams. In 1998, 54% of fans said they would rather be at an NFL game than watching it at home, according to an ESPN Sports Poll. Last year, only 29% of fans said they would rather be at the game, the worst drop of any major sport tracked over that time period…

…TCU’s new Amon G. Carter Stadium took its first bow Thursday as the school paid tribute to the many who helped make the renovations a reality. Donors, trustees and members of the stadium renovation committee joined those who helped design and build the stadium at a ceremony on the west side, while several thousand fans watched and toured the sparkling new stadium. Everyone involved — from the architects, to TCU administrators, to the six founders who donated $15 million each to start the $164 million renovation — is ecstatic with how the project turned out. The stadium’s facade is covered in the familiar yellow-toned brick that adorns most buildings on campus Architects incorporated nods to Fort Worth’s history and TCU’s football heritage in the design. Fans will notice southwestern art deco themes throughout, something that was in the original plans but scrapped because of costs when the stadium opened in 1930…

…The University of Alabama (UA) recently completed installation of a distributed antenna system (DAS) at its Bryant-Denny Stadium. The new system debuted just before the university’s first home game last Saturday. UA implemented the DAS as a way to improve wireless coverage and data speeds during hours of heavy network use, according to a statement issued by TE Connectivity. The network solution provider was selected by Verizon Wireless and AT&T to design and install the DAS, which will bAe operated by both carriers. The system, which includes antennae installed at separate locations throughout the stadium, delivers coverage to the offices, locker rooms, and seating areas inside the facility as well as nearby streets and walkways…

…Daktronics, in conjunction with Coastal Carolina University, has designed, manufactured and installed an integrated video, scoring and sound system in James C. Benton Field at Brooks Stadium. The new 15HD LED video display is located just behind the end zone and measures roughly 20 feet high by 36 feet wide. The display incorporates excellent image clarity and contrast, multiple levels of protection from the elements and a more robust cabinet design with an improved ventilation system. It is capable of showing one large image to highlight live video and instant replays. It can also be divided into separate windows to show a variety of vivid graphics, colorful animations, up-to-the-minutes statistics, scoring information and sponsor advertisements with outstanding brightness and wide-angle visibility…

…Last week it was reported that the NCAA is contemplating the possibility of reconsidering the use of arenas rather than stadiums – at least on occasion – to stage what is arguably the marquee event of college sports: March Madness. Furthermore, new NCAA Exec VP/Championships & Alliances Mark Lewis noted that both coasts (and in particular cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami) are largely left off from hosting the Final Four, as are college campuses. Forbes examines the economic and logistical reasons why these cities traditionally have not hosted the Final Four.