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Tech boosts the fan experience at U.S. Bank Stadium

Ann Bednarz | Aug. 1, 2016
Minnesota Vikings aim to deliver content and services to fans, from their driveways to their stadium seats

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The new $1.1 billion home of the Minnesota Vikings aims to deliver the space and technology for the ultimate fan experience. It has the requisite modern stadium features – slick club spaces, luxury suites, and a wide range of food and beverage options – plus some unique additions, including an interactive exhibit space that lets visitors test their athletic prowess, a fantasy-football video board so ticket-holders can keep tabs on all the league action, and a transparent roof that helps flood the space with natural light without exposing occupants to Minnesota’s bitter winter temps.

"We didn’t want to get caught in the trap of saying this is the most advanced stadium around, because the reality is that a lot of what we're putting in the stadium, there are bits and pieces of it that are being used all over the world in some way, shape or form,” said John Penhollow, vice president of corporate & technology partnerships with the Minnesota Vikings. “That said, how could we bundle all of the stuff… in such a way that it enhances the experience?"

The effort starts with pervasive mobile and wireless coverage.

A neutral-host distributed antenna system (DAS) from Verizon Wireless is designed to create an even playing field for major wireless carriers. “We can't get away with having you come in the building and only getting one bar or two bars on your phone. It needs to work, and you need to use it,” Penhollow said of the DAS from Verizon. "It shouldn't matter who your carrier partner is, whether it's Verizon or AT&T or Sprint or T-Mobile, you should be able to come into the building and have a great, powerful signal."

To boost wi-fi coverage, there are 1,300 CenturyLink access points installed in slim, proprietary “clamshells” that are built into the stadium handrails. The stadium, which seats 66,200 people, is designed to accommodate all fans on their devices at one time, but actual use is expected to hover at about 30,000 fans during a regular season Vikings game. "Theoretically, all 66,000 of us at a Vikings game could jump onto the Wi-Fi," Penhollow said.

Burstable bandwidth will be tapped for special events, when seat capacity is expandable to 70,000.

Fans can make use of the mobile and cellular infrastructure to tap the Vikings’ stadium app. Powered by VenueNext, the app lets users stay on top of team news, stats, video clips and podcasts. New features, tied to the completion of the stadium, include tools to download tickets, watch instant replays, get driving directions, and navigate the stadium.

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