January was a busy month for cricket as plans were unveiled to upgrade both the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Lord’s.

More than Aus$50m (£26.7m/€31.3m/$34.6m) was set aside to upgrade the 100,000-seat MCG over the course of 2019 as the venue sought to maintain its iconic status in the increasingly competitive Australian stadium market.

Upgrades included an enhanced sound system, the introduction of 5G coverage and a revamp for the stadium’s National Sports Museum.

The second phase of the transformation plan for Lord’s was also granted full permission by Westminster City Council in January, with work commencing in August ahead of planned completion in 2020.

January also saw Major League Soccer award a franchise to Austin FC, marking the start of a busy year for the North American competition, which later expanded to St. Louis, Sacramento and Charlotte. Although Austin FC’s 20,000-seat stadium plans were initially met with opposition, the club broke ground on the venue in September.

Elsewhere in January, the Seoul city government announced plans to develop South Korea’s first dedicated K-pop arena. The 18,000-seat arena is designed for concerts only and aims to tap into the increasing interest in K-pop, with a scheduled opening date set for 2024.

January was also a month for technology firsts in the US. AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys NFL American football team, detailed plans to become the first US sports venue to boast a 5G network courtesy of its naming-rights partner.

The Tampa Bay Rays Major League Baseball team also announced plans to make Tropicana Field the first cash-free sports venue in North America through a partnership with hospitality provider Levy and analytics and emerging technology firm E15. The initiative will see concessions, team stores, box office and all other points of sale operate cash-free.

A number of other teams and venues followed the Rays’ lead in 2019 by adopting a cashless model, including Mercedes-Benz Stadium, King Power Stadium, Coca-Cola Arena and Alexandra Palace.

Spanish LaLiga football club Barcelona also launched its analytical ticket sales model in January as part of efforts to better manage the marketing of ticket sales to boost attendance. The update will calculate the number of tickets available for non-season-ticket holders to purchase for any given match day.

Image: WilkinsonEyre