How Governors Ball Got Wireless Payments Working–In The Middle Of The New York Harbor

Mobile payments have finally made their way Stateside.

How Governors Ball Got Wireless Payments Working–In The Middle Of The New York Harbor
[Image via Shutterstock]

This weekend, as thousands descended upon New York Harbor for the Governors Ball festival, many concertgoers were pleasantly surprised to find fewer lines.


Thanks to mobile payments, this year’s Governors Ball was a paperless experience–and in festival terms, that means less waiting. Partnering with PayPal and TOURtech, event organizers enabled mobile payment for concessions and goods over Bluetooth, allowing vendors to bill patrons by simply selecting their name from a pre-loaded list of concert attendees–almost the way Square payments work. There’s nothing to scan, so the phone doesn’t even have to be visible.

“You just order with the bartender, you ask for a beer,” explains Yoni Reisman, partner at Founders Entertainment, which produces Governors Ball. “You tell him you’re paying with the Gov Ball app, then they’ll see you in their system. [The purchase will] just be charged directly to the credit card you’ve attached to your account, and then you’re on your way.”

Mobile payment was available concessions and merchandise tents, or at least within Bluetooth range. To jump-start usership, the event offered anyone who sets up a PayPal account for the first time $5 off any purchase.

“Basically it’s all through the PayPal app,” says Reisman. “It works just like PayPal app will work in Manhattan or anywhere else. There’s going to be some PayPal brand ambassadors around that area, there’s going to be some signage telling people that pay with the PayPal app.”

But implementation of such a complicated network wasn’t cheap or easy, either. Especially on an island that isn’t normally outfitted for heavy network usage.

“Randall’s Island doesn’t have hardwired Internet, so everything is kind of beamed over,” says Reisman. “For example, at other events where you’re not on an island, they have hardwire Internet wires. There’s no wires to the island, which is a challenge.”


Enter TOURtech, a mobile Internet service provider that sets up temporary Wi-Fi networks for remote locations hosting events like the Ball. From a 24-foot trailer, TOURtech operates a network catered to the specifics of each event that can broadcast for miles.

“We talked to the local bandwidth provider and get them to set up a temporary link into Randall’s Island, into the icon stadium towers, then we relay that data down to our trailer,” explains Bunky Dunn, the Governors Ball account manager at TOURtech. “From the trailer it goes into our routing system, and then we relay that signal with point-to-point links around the site, as well as using some hardwired connection.”

TOURtech is responsible for all connectivity at the site, a primary reason that concertgoers did not receive Wi-Fi access at this year’s event. It’s just too expensive a service to provide. But the infrastructure TOURtech provides Randall’s Island is what makes the festival work.

“We’re backstage, point-of-sale, production, sponsors, media support, productions, Wi-Fi, production hardline, network printers, the point-of-sale stuff, sponsorship requests, which is always becoming more and more interesting as things go on,” says Dunn.

“Miller Time (a promotional area at the festival where fans can drink in the shade) has asked for a high-density Wi-Fi deployment as well as a live stream of the main stage. So we’re having to bring in some special equipment to kind of transfer that live feed all the way over to their activation area there.”

With the concert in full swing, the system was working without a hitch. This ain’t your parents’ music festival–except, of course, for the mud.

About the author

Matt Hartigan writes about sports technology for Co.Labs. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 2006 where he studied English, Psychology, Fine Arts and spectatorship.