August 23, 2017

IBM lands tech deal for new L.A. soccer stadium

Artist rendering of Banc of California Stadium, slated to open in 2018. Credit: LAFC

Artist rendering of Banc of California Stadium, slated to open in 2018. Credit: LAFC

IBM’s growing sports-venue technology business landed its first soccer-specific client, with the announcement that IBM will lead all technology deployments at the Los Angeles Football Club’s Banc of California Stadium, a venue scheduled to open in 2018.

Like it has at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field and the Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, IBM will act as a lead general contractor of sorts for technology at the under-construction 22,000-seat Banc of California Stadium, responsible for picking vendors and leading deployment for such features as Wi-Fi and cellular networks, digital signage, and as yet-to-be determined fan experience applications and services.

The MLS expansion team LAFC, which will begin play in 2018, has a star-studded ownership group that includes names like former pro athletes Magic Johnson and Nomar Garciaparra, actor Will Ferrell and Golden State Warriors owner Peter Guber, among others. The new stadium is being built on the space once held by the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. According to the team website the stadium will have clear-plastic shields overhead to reduce sun glare and reflect heat, made of the same ETFE plastic used in the clear window sides of the Minnesota Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium.

Though IBM was not yet ready to name specific vendors or any specific apps or services that will be available at the new stadium, it did say that its contract with LAFC shows that IBM’s strategy of having a single integrator in charge of all technology deployments isn’t just for huge stadiums or big new projects like Atlanta’s new venue.

Construction-cam shot at home of future Banc of California Stadium. Credit: LAFC

Construction-cam shot at home of future Banc of California Stadium. Credit: LAFC

“As [stadium network] technology evolves, it just becomes more complex, whether it’s a small venue or a large one,” said Jim Rushton, global leader for the sports & entertainment practice for IBM. “Our methodology is the same.”

Just like a lead contractor for plumbing or electricity, Rushton said that IBM’s size and purchasing power gives it an edge that individual venues might not have. Rushton also said that IBM’s ability to oversee all parts of a venue’s technology offerings — from wireless infrastructure to network security and application development — and its ability to integrate technologies from firms other than IBM — can help venues plan more strategically and put together a more complete venue-technology plan than they might be able to do on their own.

Rushton said that IBM’s sports venue practice, which was formally announced a year ago, will be naming more projects underway soon, including some in Europe. IBM is rumored to be the lead technology integrator for the stadium renovation that will be taking place at Notre Dame after this football season, but there has been no announcement of that yet.

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Sporting Innovations’ lawsuit against former co-CEO is dismissed

Asim Pasha

Asim Pasha

The somewhat bizarre lawsuit brought last year by Kansas City-based Sporting Innovations against its former co-CEO Asim Pasha for allegedly conspiring to set up a competing firm using Sporting Innovations assets and intellectual property has been dismissed, with a stipulation that the firm cannot re-file similar charges at a later date.

According to a document dated Feb. 29 provided to us by Pasha’s lawyers from Lathrop & Gage LLP, Kansas City, Sporting Innovations’ claims against Asim and his son Zain Pasha (who also worked for Sporting Innovations) were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be filed again in the future. As part of the negotiation, Pasha also agreed to dismiss his counterclaims against Sporting Innovations, basically meaning that the legal entanglement between the two parties is over.

Robb Heineman

Robb Heineman

Neither Pasha nor Sporting Innovations (now called FanThreeSixty) or FanThreeSixty CEO Robb Heineman would comment on the lawsuit dismissal, but with this result you have to wonder why exactly the case was brought in its initial fashion with its initial claims, including Sporting Innovations’ claim of $75,000 in damages. Though Pasha seems to have perhaps lost any claim to his 20 percent ownership stake in the company — according to Pasha’s lawyers he no longer owns any part of Sporting Innovations — Pasha also announced that he is taking over as the chief technology officer for the new stadium being designed for the AS Roma club, the Stadio Della Roma, which is scheduled to open in 2017 or 2018. We are trying to schedule some time to speak with Pasha about the new stadium, which seems like a very interesting, advanced project, so stay tuned.

On the Sporting Innovations/FanThreeSixty side, the firm is still apparently continuing with part of its original lawsuit, against other defendants. According to the legal document:

The Stipulation of Dismissal, with prejudice, does not affect Plaintiff Sporting Innovations KC LLC’s claims against Vernalis Group, Inc., Nader Hanafy, Inventory Intel, LLC, and Ubi Technologies, LLC, which parties remain as Defendants.

We have emails in to FanThreeSixty for comment, and we also asked Heineman to comment on the case in an “ask me anything” session he recently held on Twitter, but have not gotten a reply to either query. As we noted previously, Sporting Innovations/FanThreeSixty hasn’t announced any new clients recently for their stadium app program, and several high-profile customers, including the Pac-12 and the Tampa Bay Lightning, are no longer using Sporting Innovations software.

Sporting Innovations changes name to FanThreeSixty, no news on lawsuit

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 9.14.29 PMKansas City-based sports app developer Sporting Innovations has changed its name to FanThreeSixty, a brand change for what the company calls the desire to create “a more direct connection to its award-winning FanThreeSixty platform.”

However, it’s also possible that the name change is part of a strategy to distance the company from an ongoing legal battle between current FanThreeSixty CEO and former Sporting Innovations CEO Robb Heineman and his former co-CEO Asim Pasha, which started when Sporting Innovations and Heineman filed a lawsuit against Pasha for allegedly conspiring to set up a competing firm using Sporting Innovations assets and intellectual property. That move was followed by Pasha filing counterclaims denying the company’s charges against him while also alleging that he was denied promised ownership stakes in the company for providing the technology behind its stadium-application business.

According to legal representatives for Pasha, the “name change has nothing to do with the lawsuit,” which, according to Pasha’s legal team and news reports, the is still ongoing and scheduled to be heard later this year. FanThreeSixty did not respond to requests for information or an interview about the press release.

So whatever the reason behind its name change, the company formerly known as Sporting Innovations is known primarily for being one of the first movers in the still-nascent field of integrated sports stadium apps, where functionality is designed to not only enhance the fan game-day experience but to also help the team or venue better capture marketing information from digital device use. The company was (and still is) joined at the hip with the Sporting Kansas City Major League Soccer franchise, which was one of the first teams to install Wi-Fi in its stadium and to embrace mobile-device usage by fans.

However, Sporting Innovations’ business of late has not provided much in the way of public customer wins, and several previous customers for the company’s Uphoria mobile device app platform have since dropped the product, including the Pac-12 and the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the Sporting Innovations site had until recently still included links to its Pac-12 and other previous customer wins, the new FanThreeSixty site has scrubbed all the old customer news and links from its site.

New Report: Baseball AND Soccer stadium tech updates

MLB_Thumb_2015MOBILE SPORTS REPORT is pleased to announce the second issue in our second year of our STADIUM TECH REPORT series, which includes a focus on baseball and soccer stadium technology deployments, and team-by-team coverage of technology deployments for all 30 MLS teams — AND all 20 MLS teams.

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We spent a long time getting this longest-ever report ready, but if you want to get an update on MLB’s Wi-Fi everywhere plan, which is almost complete, we have the most information anywhere about the strategy and the results.

Inside the report — our longest ever — our editorial coverage includes:

— Kauffman Stadium profile: The benefits of Wi-Fi installed before the surprise World Series run by the Kansas City Royals.

— In-depth profiles of new technology deployments at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, and at the new Avaya Stadium for soccer in San Jose.

— MLB stadium tech research: This editorial research provides a technology update and analysis for stadiums used by all 30 MLB teams, gauging the level of deployment of Wi-Fi and DAS.

— MSR exclusive stadium tech analysis: The report also includes an exclusive interview with MLBAM’s Joe Inzerillo, architect of the “Wi-Fi everywhere” plan MLB is completing this season.

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In-seat food delivery returns to Levi’s Stadium for Earthquakes soccer game

Screen shot from Levi's Stadium app showing active in-seat delivery option.

Screen shot from Levi’s Stadium app showing active in-seat delivery option.

In-seat food delivery, the feature perhaps most unique to Levi’s Stadium, will return this Sunday for a MLS game between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Orlando City SC, a 4 p.m. start at the 68,500-seat home of the San Francisco 49ers.

While in-seat food delivery was active for all the Niners’ home games this past NFL season, the feature ran into some issues during the Coors Light Stadium Series hockey game at Levi’s in February, a still not-fully-explained problem of either too many orders or too few staffers to deliver that led to an unspecified number of incompleted orders and angry fans. At subsequent Levi’s events like the March WrestleMania 31 event, fans were not able to order in-seat food and beverage delivery by request of the event’s organizers.

But the latest refresh of the Levi’s Stadium app by VenueNext shows an active in-seat delivery menu, though it appears only food and beverages, and not merchandise, will be available for soccer fans to have brought to their seats. One reason why it may be easier for delivery to be available is that from seating maps it appears that the 300- and 400-level seating areas (the upper decks at Levi’s) won’t be open for the Sunday soccer game, making it a smaller overall crowd.

Avaya Stadium fans used 256 GB of Wi-Fi during Earthquakes’ MLS home opener

Connecting to Wi-Fi was easy

Connecting to Wi-Fi was easy

Fans at the San Jose Earthquakes’ MLS home opener at the brand-new Avaya Stadium used 256 gigabytes of data on the venue’s Wi-Fi network, according to statistics provided by Avaya, which also runs the wireless network in its new namesake stadium.

With a sellout crowd of 18,000 on hand to jam the new stadium, almost 25 percent of the attendees logged on to the Wi-Fi network, with a total of 4,217 unique connections during the March 22 game, Avaya representatives said. The peak number of simultaneous connections during the 2-1 Earthquakes victory over the Chicago Fire was 2,735, Avaya said, with an average connection number of 1,247 fans on the Wi-Fi network during the game.

Our unofficial testing of the Wi-Fi network during the game found some spots where connectivity was challenged, but with 256 GB over a few hours the 170+ Wi-Fi access points appeared to have done their job. We expect connectivity at Avaya Stadium to improve when Mobilitie finishes deploying its neutral-host DAS in the stadium, which currently does not have any enhanced cellular connectivity.