New Stadiums Compete for Best In-Game Experience

New Stadiums Compete for Best In-Game Experience

In the NFL, your home games had better feel like home games.

NFL teams, in response to a shift in fan behavior that values comfort, web/data access and an interest in stats and other game updates, must transform their in-stadium experience to accommodate that, or risk the hit they will take at the gate.

Often, new stadiums and hefty facility upgrades are the answers for keeping up with the Joneses – or at least accounting for comprehensive TV coverage and the proliferation of fantasy sports.

The need for stadium facelifts isn’t just a matter of economics; they might well determine a franchise’s survival in a town. With stadiums in disrepair (Minnesota), Super Bowl bids being rejected (San Diego) and facilities stuck in the 80s (Oakland), the message is clear: Upgrade, or risk lose your team.

The message has been heard by the 49ers, who will move into their high-tech, web-rich new stadium in Santa Clara next year. Ditto the Atlanta Falcons, who failed to secure funding in 2005 in a bid to host a Super Bowl, and now have plans to replace the Georgia Dome.

A report counts 12 of 31 NFL stadiums (the Giants and Jets share) with Wi-Fi capability. That means 19 other stadiums lag behind in a basic need: Internet access.

Two stadiums – the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium and the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field – represent an effort to meld the old-school stadium experience with the amenities sports fans need today.

AT&T Stadium vs. Ford Field: Who has the edge?

The Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions – traditional hosts for Thanksgiving Day football games – play in relatively new stadiums. Here’s a look at the game-day experience in each:

Cowboys AT&T Stadium

Even from club-level seating, it’s tough to take your eyes off that 2,100-foot super scoreboard in the middle of this jewel. The team has bolstered its kids’ area, and opens its doors four hours before kickoff to entertain a "Cowboys Tailgate Party" with food and drink specials and live music.

The new Cowboys mobile apps give fans access to more stats and radio broadcasts, perfect for fans as they root for the Cowboys, but play fantasy football with players on the 49ers, Patriots and Cardinals.

Lions Ford Field

The Lions’ home since 2002 fuses a modern feel and tradition – a six-story warehouse, circa 1920s, houses most of the stadium’s suites. Ford Field has two LED-digital-video boards, 97 feet by 27 feet. The Lions sponsor pregame parties outside the stadium, and increased local food to the stadium food fare.

A partnership with Verizon gives Lions fans access to free Wi-Fi.

The verdict

Local food vendors, wireless access and the concession that fans will want to go where it feels like home all made AT&T Stadium and Ford Field winners in the stadium race. Both facilities carry on traditions such as singing the Lions’ fight song after every touchdown, while giving fans a way to update social media with photos from their seats and update their fantasy lineups.

And that feels a lot like home

Paul Holmes is a husband, father of 2 and diehard Carolina Panthers Fan. When he’s not chasing kids or applying body paint, he free-lances in the gaming and entertainment space.

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