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How the Red Sox brought new tech to baseball's oldest park

Lauren Brousell | Sept. 3, 2015
Boston Red Sox IT staff faced the unique challenge of deploying public Wi-Fi without disturbing the original structures or feel of the oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball. The initiative is just one part of an ongoing effort to collect and analyze fan data, and to provide the fan experience of the future.

From its famed Green Monster to the quirky red Ted Williams seat in the right field bleachers, Fenway Park is a living museum in the heart of Boston. But going to a Red Sox game at Fenway isn't just about baseball. It's about experiencing America's pastime at Major League Baseball's (MLB) oldest ballpark. The Red Sox organization can't live in the past, however, and it has to incorporate the technologies today's fans expect at Fenway.

Rolling out ballpark-wide Wi-Fi was a necessary first step for the Red Sox. The team previously had limited Wi-Fi for fans in some areas but it wasn't widely available or heavily publicized. This time, they wanted to provide more fans with connectivity, collect additional fan data and deliver a more targeted and technology-driven customer experience. Today, the organization encourages fans to share experiences on social media and to use MLB's mobile apps, At Bat and Ballpark, while at Fenway, but it needed faster Wi-Fi to enable better download and upload performance throughout the park.

boston red sox fenway park
Boston Red Sox

"Our real goal here is to leverage some of the information from fans so we can start to create a much greater experience," says Brian Shield, vice president of IT for the Boston Red Sox.

During the last few years, many professional sports organizations have pushed to provide enhanced connectivity options for fans at venues, as foundations for mobile apps and to compete with the at-home viewing experience.

Boston's analog ballpark goes digital

When strategizing about how to install the new Wi-Fi system, the Red Sox's IT staff had to get creative. Not only did the team battle a brutal winter that dropped a record amount of snow in Boston, but it also had to avoid damaging or significantly altering the 103-year-old ballpark, which is protected by various historical societies.

"In order to get the deployment approved, we had to work with the Boston Landmarks Commission, the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the National Park Service, take photo simulations of each and every antenna installation we proposed to install, show where it was positioned and how it would be mounted," says Randy George, director of IT operations for the Red Sox.

Per the requirements, the IT group had to be careful about how, and where, they installed access points (APs) and wiring, so they didn't disturb the original structures from 1912 or make the technology look tacky. The tech team installed APs on the support columns in each section of the "lower bowl" and painted them Fenway green so they blend in and placed APs on the sponsor signs above the Green Monster. Red Sox IT also ran wiring underneath the field and hid 45 APs in the walls surrounding the field. Now when fans see Sox third baseman, Pablo Sandoval (a.k.a., The Panda) jump over an infield wall to catch a foul ball, it's likely he'll sail over a hidden Wi-Fi AP.

 

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