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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.

fenway installation fieldwall wifi wi-fi 
A Wi-Fi access point in Fenway Park's infield wall. Credit: Boston Red Sox

After an eight-month process, three of which were dedicated to installation, the Red Sox officially rolled out Fenway's new Wi-Fi in July, for a Billy Joel concert. Today Fenway has 481 APs, and the network covers the entire park, so fans can access the Wi-Fi from any seat or area, according to George. Currently, 50 percent of fans at sold-out games can log on and use the network simultaneously, but on average only 3,000 fans currently connect at a given event. The new 802.11ac Wi-Fi network offers varying speeds, depending on device type and how many people connect at one time, but George says top download speeds will max out around 40 Mbps. (CIO.com performed its own tests just outside the Fenway entrance on Yawkey Way, during a Red Sox-Yankees game yesterday, and saw wireless speeds around 15Mbps, both up and down.)

George says when fans come to any public venue today they assume Wi-Fi will be available, much like restrooms. "There's been a big push this year by the league and the four major [mobile] carriers to provide expanded Internet connectivity in the ballparks," he says. "It really is a basic fan amenity that our customers expect."

Building data warehouse for Red Sox fan info

The game of baseball has an impressive history of analytics (think "Moneyball"), but on the business side, MLB teams have a ways to go if they hope to analyze fan data and deliver the best possible experiences. The Fenway Wi-Fi project is just one part of a greater Red Sox IT initiative to collect and analyze more fan data. Last spring, the IT team created the first version of its "fan data warehouse," and it recently developed a second iteration.

"What's wonderful about this customer data warehouse environment, as well as Wi-Fi, is that baseball for many years probably lagged a lot of its business counterparts," Shield says. "That's all changing now, and that window … between baseball and business is closing rapidly."

Shield hired the organization's first-ever data architect to work on these new IT initiatives, several analysts to monitor and analyze fan data, and a dedicated person to manage the CRM environment. With each Wi-Fi registration, the Red Sox see fan email addresses or social media credentials, as well as the types of devices they use. MLB and the Red Sox hope to use that data, along with other data streams, as building blocks for mobile offerings, including in-app features that provide bathroom and concession wait times, and to solve business problems, such as how to entice fans to come to games during months with less-than-ideal weather.

 

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