Boldly Going Where No Stadium Has Gone Before
By Richard Sandomir
The New York Times
The Yankees, still looking for pitching help, detoured on Tuesday into discussions of wireless technology, the convergence of video, Internet and voice, and killer apps.
Yankee Studium has been wired with monitors that will offer weather and traffic updates, to enhance the fan experience.
None of that will be supplied by the free agent C. C. Sabathia, but by Cisco Systems, the high-tech behemoth, which has wired the new $1.3 billion Yankee Stadium with what it said was the most advanced technology ever embedded in a North American stadium.
"Yankee Stadium will be in a constant state of the artness," Lonn Trost, the team's chief operating officer, told a news conference at Cisco's office across West 33rd Street from Madison Square Garden. "Don't look up that word. It doesn't exist."
John T. Chambers, the passionate salesman who is the chairman of Cisco, offered a cinematic analysis of the company's installation at the new stadium, which he estimated cost $15 million to $16 million and is not part of a sponsorship.
"Take the dream of 'Star Trek' or other movies," he said in a voice suffused with the influence of his upbringing in West Virginia. "That concept is where we're going to go."
He added: "It's going to change all of sports. I don't think I'm too bold in saying that."
The technological prowess acquired by the Yankees includes the ability to program 1,100 flat-panel, high-definition TV monitors with live game coverage, archival and highlight video, statistics, promotional messages and weather and traffic updates.
The monitors will be located at concession stands, inside the 59 luxury and party suites, around the restaurants and bars, and in restrooms. They are designed to surround fans visually from the moment they walk into the stadium, especially when they stray from a direct view of the field. The team will be its own video puppeteer, controlling all the monitors centrally with the capabilities of offering different content on each one.
Each player will have a computer at his locker and all video instruction has been integrated into the Cisco system.
The luxury suites will be outfitted with special touch-screen phones that will let better-heeled fans order food and merchandise. And Cisco's video-conferencing technology will be installed in the stadium's business conference center, which will let it connect to a library in the Bronx (for students and community groups) and eventually to other locations in the city like hospitals, to let players and executives talk to fans.
"The ultimate fan experience is when Derek Jeter can help some kid in the Bronx learn long division" via video conferencing, said Ron Ricci, the co-chairman of Cisco's sports and entertainment division , who said he learned arithmetic through baseball.
Ricci and Chambers said that the technology already wired into the stadium would eventually allow fans at the stadium, and at home and beyond, to connect the system's data and video to their home televisions and mobile devices.
"This technology is future proof," Ricci said. "It will be possible, at the next level, that fans at each seat will have an individualized interactive experience, perhaps ordering food and picking it up at the concession stands, most assuredly through your mobile phone."
He added: "I can't emphasize enough how important video is. It's the killer application. It's what fans want to see, to see more angles and do it on their terms."
Some elements of the system, which Cisco began installing about two years ago as the stadium was being built, will take a while to be fully functional. Trost said his greatest concern was making sure the stadium opened on time, but insisted that elevating the fan experience — a phrase used repeatedly — was behind the Cisco strategy.
"We can't deliver the same thing every year," Trost said. "We try to deliver winning ballclubs and part of that is bringing in winning partners."
Chambers said that past experience told him he could not be certain how the technology would evolve or how envisioned uses would change over time. "Once you build the architecture," he said, "it's like highways. You can really go wherever you want."
The Yankees have created a technology subsidiary, which seems appropriate.
Trost said his high-tech learning curve ended in the 1960s with his mastery of the mimeograph machine. And Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees' co-chairman, said of some of Cisco's technology: "I didn't know it existed."
For additional information regarding telepresence, HD video conferencing and audio visual integration call 1-800-224-7083, or click here to have an IVCi Representative contact you.