Major League Baseball franchise the Tampa Bay Rays is wrapping up its plans to design a new, high-tech stadium and is beginning to select a site to build.
The Rays have collected nearly 4,600 ideas from fans and community members to facilitate the planning process. These concepts include self-driving cars that drop supporters at the gate, a scanner that communicates automatically with a watch or phone to confirm monthly game subscriptions, as well as couches instead of stadium seating, and an app that food or merchandise can be ordered through and delivered by a drone, the Tampa Bay Times newspaper reports.
Vice-president of strategy and development for the Rays, William Walsh, said the challenge is capturing and staying ahead of technological advances as the concepts come together. “It’s incredibly difficult to do,” he said. “It was only 10 years ago that the first iPhone came out.”
Investing in a multi-million dollar stadium in a technology environment that is rapidly changing is one of the toughest decisions faced by the Rays’ executive team, as certain features, like a parking garage, could become irrelevant if self-driving cars become the norm.
The franchise is still looking to pick a location for the futuristic stadium and gain financing for the project.
The league adjusted its rules to speed up gameplay to better capture the attention of younger generations, while a study by the Mobile Sports Report website also shows that almost 75 per cent of all sports venues have Wi-Fi fitted.
Stadiums and entertainment venues have been scanning tickets electronically, rather than using paper stubs for a long time now. However, the Rays and phone companies like Verizon and AT&T have struggled to meet growing internet demand for fans.
Walsh said that fans have made it clear that if they can’t be connected through social media, checking statistics or zooming in on replays, they’ll just stay at home.
“It was a 180-degree change… to largely urban ballparks focused on integrating into the surround community,” he said. “Not around a big moat of parking.”
The last 15 or so years of stadium construction have followed that model but Walsh said that this time, the Rays “want to have the first of the next generation of ballparks.”
MLB is advancing technologically too after recently signing a deal with a facial-recognition technology company 15 Seconds of Fame that provides fans who download the app to take a picture of their face to receive a video clip of themselves on the video scoreboard if they are featured.