Largest LED Display In Sports Debuts

What to expect from Mercedes-Benz Stadium technologically

  • by Mark J. Burns
  • Published: June 19, 2017

Click here to see the video of the largest LED display in sports at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.

Sitting at the roofline of the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta — home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC — will be the largest LED video display in sports. For Jared Miller, the 58-foot tall, 1,100 feet around halo screen is arguably the most exciting and noteworthy piece of technology being integrated into the venue, which will open in the Fall.

“Anyone who walks into the venue, that’ll be the first thing that they look at and the first thing they’ll pay attention to. It’s not going to get old, game after game after game,” said the Chief Digital Officer and SVP of Analytics and Technology for AMB Sports and Entertainment (AMBSE).

“It’s unlike anything that’s ever been built.”

Miller said that with the $1.5-billion construction project, which was both publicly and privately funded, the goal isn’t to chase superlative statements or claiming to be the most technologically advanced venue, even if it will house a 101-foot tall mega column LED display, 460 LED sports lights and an all fiber-to-the-edge network. The sentiments echo recent comments made last month by Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts.

“My commitment is to make sure that the fan experience we’re creating is going to leverage the latest and greatest technology, to make it the best possible experience,” Miller said to SportTechie.

“One thing we’re not going to do is innovate for innovation’s sake. We’re going to make sure we innovate for the customer's sake and for benefit of the fan at the end of the day.”

With countdown to opening less than a few months away, Miller said that the stadium is in the “full-on implementation and final configuration” phase of the process. Since early last year, AMBSE and its outside vendors have tested at a local lab facility in Atlanta the different types of technology being incorporated into Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with Miller saying that, in mid-2016, “we had the equivalent of three stadiums running simultaneously in this lab.”

“Granted, they were a microcosm in terms of scale, but it allowed us to test the technology as opposed to relying on that paper-based approach, and the hope that the integrations would work,” he added. “We put it to the test and saw first-hand how each one of these technologies would behave and nuances that often manifest themselves in the phase that we’re in now.”

Everything from safety firewalls and points-of-sale devices to routers, security cameras, television screens and other tech-based features have all been given the test treatment prior to the current implementation stages. Even WiFi, which will be powered by Hewlett Packard company Aruba, and have 1,800 wireless access points, has been tested as well.

From a fan engagement perspective, there has been a heightened level of importance placed on mobile and the app experience, according to Miller, who called it “one of the most critical touch points we have because that’s how fans engage with us.” Through a partnership with IBM, there will be three apps (Atlanta Falcons/Atlanta United FC/Mercedes-Benz Stadium) for fans to use versus what other sports teams have done with a joint team and venue app. Both teams’ apps will include stadium-based features and information.

As a result, there isn’t a necessity to download multiple apps unless a sports fan’s allegiances span soccer and football or maybe a consumer just wants to learn more about the stadium. Miller said that with the multipurpose 71,000-seat venue, which will also include events like the NCAA Final Four, SEC Championship or concert programming, it was necessary to build out the third app to cater to another group of attendees.

Additionally, with the IBM-powered apps, AMBSE can experiment with different startup vendors and technology providers to enhance the fan experience, whether it’s parking information or survey-based fans communication, for example.

“If we find that that is not being effective and not adding value to the fans, it’s like Legos, we can pull one out and try something else,” Miller said. “The core platform we’ve developed with IBM is really that core platform that allows us to have that agility and speed of innovation.

“Anything we do from a digital standpoint, it can’t be distracting. It needs to enhance whatever is happening on the field, whether it’s a game, concert or something else.”

That mindset stretches to ticketing as well, where Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be paperless, said Miller. Both the Falcons and Atlanta United season ticket holders will receive an RFID card and lanyard to make entry more efficient while barcodes on smartphones will still be accepted. As the organization utilizes the RFID technology throughout the season, learns more about its capabilities and how it impacts the fan, Miller said there is the possibility to “leverage it more broadly.”

When asked about collecting further fan data and information from the RFID technology, such as where individuals walk throughout the venue, how they’re using their time or where they’re purchasing food and beverage, Miller said that could be a capability as AMBSE looks into the future. From day one when Mercedes-Benz Stadium opens, that won’t be an option. Additionally, fans won’t have the ability to initially buy merchandise and generally spend money via their RFID card but again, that may be a future possibility as Miller and his staff continue to engage in conversations about how to enhance all aspects of the fan experience. With the organization’s Ticketmaster relationship, the plan is to continue to maximize that partnership as much as possible and “deploy the latest and greatest technologies.”

In addition, Miller explained that  the venue’s “fiber-to-the-edge infrastructure” means over the next 5, 10 and 20 years, Mercedes-Benz Stadium can stay current with new advances in technologies without having to reconfigure the infrastructure.

“How are we setting us up for continued excellence in the years to come? … I think that’s something we’ve focused on squarely and uniquely with Mercedes-Benz Stadium,” Miller said.

  • by Mark J. Burns
  • Published: June 19, 2017