KANSAS CITY, Kan. —High definition. Surround sound. 3-D TVs. A DVR that lets you pause and rewind. Channels with specific camera angles and feeds. Specialized sports packages like the Sunday Ticket or MLS DirectKick.
Modern technology often makes watching a live sports game easier — and arguably more enjoyable — than attending a live event.
Sporting Kansas City, with a big assist from Cisco, wants to change that. They want to bring the technology from your living room and provide it to the fans in attendance at the state-of-the-art, $200 million Livestrong Sporting Park.
Sporting KC will play its first MLS game in its new home tonight against the Chicago Fire.
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"We built Livestrong Sporting Park with a primary emphasis on technology and fan experience," said Sporting Club's chief executive officer Robb Heineman.
On Tuesday in the deluxe Victory Suite at the stadium, Cisco, a worldwide leader in networking, unveiled two technologies designed to enhance the fan experience. Both will be the first of their kind at a venue like Livestrong Park in North America.
"Cisco is proud to work with Sporting Club to bring a unique and technologically advanced experience for fans through flexible and customizable networking solutions," said Dave Holland, general manager and senior vice president of sports and entertainment solutions group at Cisco.
"Livestrong Sporting Park is a testament for other venues that are looking for ways to cater to today's 'connected fan' by providing the integrated and memorable experiences they demand."
Connected Stadium Wi-Fi allows fans to wirelessly harness a high-speed Internet signal on their mobile devices. Cisco's high-density routers — there are 196 of them blanketing the venue — will provide easy access to mobile applications (such as the team's first app, Sporting Explore), social-networking sites and more and more on their smartphones, tablets or laptops.
Livestrong Park is one of "two or three" venues using this sort of router but the first in the United States, according to Holland.
According to the team and Cisco, if the stadium is filled to capacity, 80 percent of the stadium could connect with minimal lag. With the Wi-Fi routers handling the congestion of mobile data, it will ease game-day pressure on cell phone networks, too.
The other innovation is Cisco StadiumVision, which can deliver customized HD video to any of the venue's 300 HDTVs. Holland calls it "the next generation of fan experience."
The internet-protocol TV platform will enable the team to push dynamic updates throughout the game and offer specific content to specific screens — whether it be advertising, out-of-town scores, different camera angles, team trivia, weather, etc.
All of the suites at Livestrong Park will utilize StadiumVision and are controlled by an iPad app.
"For most of the stadiums I visit, I have a better viewing experience than if I had a $100 seat," said Holland. "StadiumVision overcomes that by doing more than what you can do in your home. You get the video angles and the roar of 18,500 live fans."
Livestrong Sporting Park will be the first MLS venue in North America using StadiumVision — it is currently in use in several NFL stadiums.
Cisco's internet-protocol network also provides the backbone for the stadium — including the security system.