There are some sports arenas in the United States that can only be described as iconic. The names Madison Square Garden, a.k.a. the Mecca of basketball, and Wrigley Field, with its ivy-covered brick outfield walls, certainly come to mind.
Sometimes it’s tradition; sometimes it’s aesthetics. But there is always something special that sets these fabled venues apart from the rest.
Will we soon add Levi’s Stadium to the list? If so, it might well be because of the stadium’s innovative use of technology.
The greenest stadium in the NFL
Levi’s Stadium – home of the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers – opened its gates for the first time in Santa Clara, California, just over a year ago. Already the 1.85 million-square-foot facility is generating considerable buzz with its high-tech operations and fan amenities.
To start with, there are the stadium’s eco-friendly features. Levi’s Stadium’s solar panels, for example, can generate enough power over the course of a year to totally offset the electricity consumed during all the team’s home games. It is also the first stadium in California to utilize a recycled water system which accounts for about 85% percent of all the water used.
Even the stadium’s 27,000-square-foot green roof is designed to be easy on Mother Nature. Up to 40 different species of local vegetation grow atop the 49ers’ new home.
Redefining the fan experience
Going high-tech is almost a no-brainer for a stadium located in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
“We try to be creative and innovative,” says Al Guido, the San Francisco 49ers’chief operating officer. “We want to embody everything that the Bay Area represents.”
This includes using technology to help redefine the experience of attending a live sporting event. As an example, 49ers’ executives point to the Levi’s Stadium app and the stadium-wide WiFi network.
The app enhances the fans’ game-day experience with features like mobile tickets and parking passes and a “game center” that lets you watch high-definition video replays. Then when the action becomes really intense, sports fans can use their mobile phones to order food and beverages for delivery straight to their seats. And Levi’s Stadium features more varieties of food than typical stadiums, including at least one vegan option at every concession stand.
Technology behind the scenes
But not all the technology at play is immediately apparent to the more than 70,000 fans attending a Sunday football game.
As Sean Kundu, vice president of new ventures at the San Francisco 49ers, explains, “fans get to see the magic on the field, but they don’t see all the things we’re doing behind the scenes.”
The Niners organization is also using analytics software powered by the SAP HANA platform and cloud-based HR solutions to support the fan experience. Data analytics, for example, help the 49ers identify fans’ buying preferences, reduce operating costs, and even evaluate player talent.
The team’s HR systems play an important role too. The 49ers organization manages Levi’s Stadium, and the facility operates year-round as an entertainment complex. In fact, the stadium hosted two concerts in Taylor Swift’s 1989 World Tour this summer.
“Our staff is about 10 times bigger than it was two years ago,” says Kundu, “and that’s all because of this beautiful new building.”
The automated HR systems make it much simpler to hire, onboard, and manage all the personnel needed to staff the state-of-the-art stadium. “We can spend more time getting people acclimated to the building, talking about our culture, and making them feel more a part of the team,” Kundu says.
Home to Super Bowl 50
The five-time Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers are looking forward to continued success for the team and its new home – and indeed, Levi’s Stadium will play host to this year’s NFL championship game in Super Bowl 50.
What about the 49ers’ longer term goals for the venue?
“We want Levi’s Stadium to be the best in the business,” says Guido. “We want it to be up there with Madison Square Garden and Wrigley Field.”
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