Like so much of life for today’s students, attending a collegiate sporting event at Liberty University is as much about sharing the experience with others as the game itself. That’s why fan experiences were top of mind as we moved toward becoming an NCAA D1-A school and embarked on expanding our football and events venue, Williams Stadium, from 19,000 seats to 25,000. Slated for completion prior to the 2018 Flames football opener, the project included blanketing the outdoor facility with high-performance Wi-Fi.

Given our institution’s larger plans for updating all 11 of our competitive athletic facilities, we decided to use the football stadium’s Wi-Fi deployment as a proving ground for mobilizing our entire large public venue portfolio. With Williams finished and our first D1 football season in the record books, here are the most important takeaways we’ll apply going forward.

Lesson 1: Get the facts on fan expectations—it matters for achieving attendance goals
Increasingly, the expectations of students, alumni, press, and other fans are not only driven by the preference for sharing, but also by experiences at professional sports stadiums and arenas. As every institution must meet the NCAA’s attendance requirements, surveying users about what they want is critical to adopting a suitable infrastructure.

For example, students use wireless continuously to express themselves and share the fun they’re having via Snapchat and Instagram. Meanwhile, non-student fans are more likely to stay engaged in the live event and access Wi-Fi only to check on sporting events occurring simultaneously at other venues.

Moving forward, we foresee a growing appetite among all participants for such services as wayfinding and in-seat ordering, as well as AR/VR options for blending the physical and the virtual.

About the Author:

Richard Lee is director of infrastructure and media operations at Liberty University. He is responsible for providing leadership for his group, which provide design, installation, project management, and support of all infrastructure cabling, voice, data, and wireless networks, content delivery services, and campus audio/visual/lighting needs. Over the past decade Lee has served in various capacities at Liberty. Previously, he was a certified network engineer with Advanced Logic Industries for 20 years.

TJ Norton is wireless network architect at Liberty, where he designs, engineers, implements, and supports enterprise wireless networks including for the institution’s LPV/events facilities. Prior to joining Liberty, Norton held IT positions at the Missile Defense Agency, Lockheed Martin, and BAE Systems.

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