Mobile apps make college sporting venues more like home

Colleges have struggled to install Wi-Fi networks in football stadiums.

Stanford University’s athletics department released a smart-phone application this fall that might help the stadium experience compete with the ever-improving living room experience.

The crystal clarity of big screen high-definition TVs, the boom of surround sound, and the convenience of a kitchen a few steps away—all advantages of the couch-bound sports fan, who doesn’t have to fight circuitous lines for nachos and a soda, and who has a perfect view of the field from start to finish.

Stanford unveiled two mobile applications that could add convenience to an often inconvenient day at the school’s sports venues.

The Stanford GameDay Live app and the iCardinal app give fans real-time replays, live game statistics, and crowdsourced video that lets fans download game footage from their seats and share it with others who have downloaded the app.

And for the Stanford faithful who want a hot dog and a cold drink, the GameDay Live app lets fans place orders using the Bypass Lane. A fan orders her food, pays with a credit card, and waits for a text message saying the refreshments are ready for pick up.

The Bypass Lane, said Kevin Blue, Stanford’s associate director of athletics, has proved popular with fans who don’t want to miss a critical play while cramped in line at the concession stands.

“It can be very inconvenient to order food and miss a portion of the game,” Blue said, adding that the stadium applications were an outgrowth of the high-profile technological innovation Stanford has become known for. “This is a way … to demonstrate leading edge thinking and progress. Stanford takes a lot of pride in that. It’s about upholding the spirit of technological leadership, especially on the internet, which is really the foundation of our university over the past 20 years.”

The university has yet to market the iCardinal and Stanford GameDay Live apps, and the school doesn’t know how many students and sports fans have downloaded the apps. Blue said the mobile apps would be improved during Stanford’s basketball season.

Stanford fans can access the mobile apps through a recently installed AT&T wireless network, which is freely accessible for anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled smart phone.

“At-home entertainment is becoming so enhanced over the years that I think sports teams are looking for ways to keep the stadium experience popular,” said Kevin Carman, an education segment manager for AT&T, which helped build the app. “The viewing experience at home is so much better than it used to be, so there’s certainly some competition there.”

Crowdsourced video, showing mobile device-wielding Stanford fans a host of views from around the football stadium, could catch on with iCardinal and GameDay Live users in the nosebleed seats.

“If you’re far away from the game, you maybe want to see a different point of view of the game,” Carman said.

While Wi-Fi access has become commonplace at collegiate and professional basketball and baseball venues, wiring much larger football stadiums with reliable networks has been more difficult.

Blue said the athletic department hoped to improve the wireless access at the school’s football stadium before it made an aggressive push for students to download the Stanford GameDay Live and iCardinal apps.

“This is not like installing a new refrigerator,” he said. “It’s a difficult process.”

Pro football teams have also tried to bring the at-home viewing experience to the stadium via mobile applications.

At the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., fans of the NFL’s New York Giants and New York Jets can use a new smart phone app to review stats and calculate the speed of a player or the football as it flies.

The Meadowlands app also alerts fans as to which concession stands have the shortest wait time, and provide updates on local traffic conditions for fans leaving the stadium.

“For a lot of people, the tradeoff of having the kitchen right around the corner and their great big TVs right there in front of them is enough” to keep them at home rather than at the stadium, Carman said.

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