The New Meadowlands Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets, is one of the most expensive stadiums ever built. At a cost of $1.6 billion in private funds, it's state of the art—and that means more than comfy seats and realistic looking pretzel cheese. Gearing up for its inaugural NFL season later this month, the stadium will feature a first-of-its-kind "Command Center," which will help executives and merchandisers track customers in real-time. It's also a stats junkie's dream.
Built by digital design firm Roundarch, the new system enables managers to keep by-the-second tabs on operations through a touchscreen dashboard. In what looks more like video game RollerCoaster Tycoon than an analytics tool, the Command Center monitors ticket sales, concession and merchandising information, and parking, all in real-time.
What exactly is the system capable of? Let's start with concessions and merchandise. While a game is underway, NY Jets' owner Woody Johnson will see a four-panel layout that shows a variety of metrics, from gross spending to total transactions to average amount spent per transaction. The stadium is virtually divided up by each level, and Johnson can zoom in on individual stores and concession stands to see which jerseys are selling, or which beer isn't.
The stadium is heat-mapped too, so if lines are getting to long, mobile vendors can be directed to help ease the burden.
"You might realize, hey, this part of the stadium has more sun in the fans' eyes, and is selling more hats," says Geoff Cubitt, chief technology officer of Roundarch. "We're running out of inventory there, but the other side has plenty. In real-time, you can be smarter about how to allocate."
The Command Center won't just help managers and executives, but will soon aim to improve the fan experience as well. Cisco has invested $100 million into the stadium, and one rep estimates the company's technology could provide fans with estimated wait times in the near future. The dashboard will also warn of choke points at stadium gates and concession stands, so fans can be informed of how to avoid the longest line for a burger, or the best way to exit after the game.
And even outside the stadium, metrics continue with parking. The dashboard can zoom in on individual lots to analyze flow through parking plazas. "We can see the time it takes people to go from the parking gate to the stadium," explains Cubitt. "We can see where they enter."
What's more, the Command Center can create comparisons not just between other games, but specific times. With the simple drag of the mouse on the timeline, execs can see how the first half or just the third quarter or only a few specific minutes compares to other weeks. "Think about weather conditions: How are the poncho sales going on this rainy day compared to the last?" the Roundarch CTO says. "Or if a banner is put up for something, what kind of impact does that have?"
Funded by the Jets, the system will eventually migrate to mobile devices such as the iPad and Android, where it'll help operational staff on-the-go.
But for now, owner Woody Johnson will oversee the entire stadium from his personal touchscreen.