Warriors joins other NBA teams to build smart arenas

The demands for Wi-Fi in sports stadiums are increasing, and the Golden State Warriors want to keep up. The NBA team recently rolled out a high-speed wireless network at its home arena, the Chase Center, to ensure high-quality connectivity for internet-savvy fans.

San Francisco’s Chase Center is one of several NBA venues that are turning to technology to make games more enjoyable for fans who demand a solid internet connection. For NBA teams, high-speed wireless networks in high-tech stadiums can also gather useful information about fan activity.

Consulting firm PwC is working with three NBA arenas to install high-tech capabilities. Everyone wants to keep improving them to interact with fans and help with facility management, said Mark Borao, a partner at PwC. PwC is partnering with Microsoft Azure to build the smart venues.

The Warriors deployed 250 HPE Aruba Wi-Fi 6E Access Points to ensure fans can access the internet from almost anywhere in the Chase Center, said Daniel Busilovsky, Warriors vice president of technology. Wi-Fi 6E is an evolution of Wi-Fi 6 as the former has upload speeds five times faster than the latest technology.

On opening night in October, the livelier network had the Warriors stream an augmented reality image onto their phones. Fans could wear the Warriors’ four championship rings on their fingers and share the photo on social media, Busilovksy said.

“It’s our job to provide that connectivity so they can do all of that, but then also just use their phone the way they expect to,” he said.

The updated network also offers faster access to the Warriors’ smartphone app, which allows fans to connect socially and commercially. It offers stats, trivia, and play-by-plays, and users can also buy tickets, flights, and groceries. Through a partnership with food-order company DoorDash, fans can pre-order meals for pickup, Busilovsky said.

Among the smart venues Borao is building with Microsoft is an Azure Digital Twin, a full 3D digital replica of the stadium. The virtual model presents live data using sensors placed throughout the building. These sensors track temperature, humidity, sound and movement, and feed data to a machine learning algorithm. The model notifies management of unusual behavior before a system fails.

“By using sensors and people, you can radically reduce the management costs of your facility and just make the place safer,” Borao said.

Chase Center, home of the NBA's Golden State Warriors
The Chase Center’s upper control room overlooks the court where the Golden State Warriors play.

A few weeks ago, he spoke to another NBA owner about building a smart venue. Two months ago, Borao spoke to another basketball team owner who wanted to install seat sensors to detect fan cheer levels. With the sensors, the team can distribute loyalty points to the most enthusiastic fans, Borao said.

“The sensor is so sensitive that it can tell if you’re cheering or if it’s just the sounds of the crowd,” he said.

PwC has not disclosed the team names due to data protection agreements.

Building intelligent communities

The Chase Center is a smart arena aiming to become what Borao calls a smart community. Venue owners want to build high-tech neighborhoods to encourage community and commerce around a particular sports brand, he said.

“They want to buy and improve the land around the stadium so that they can provide great experiences for the fans,” Borao said.

Those communities include retail, restaurants and hotels that work well with the brand, he said.

The Warriors’ intelligent community includes the Chase Center and Thrive City, an 11-acre property with shops and restaurants. Wi-Fi 6E is only deployed in the arena because regulators haven’t approved it for outdoor use, Busilovsky said.

PwC is working with developers to build an intelligent community in California, Borao said. The district will have the largest solar array west of the Mississippi and acreage for growing produce from farm to fork.

“They want to do this in a very sustainable way,” Borao said. “They don’t just want to put up a pile of concrete. They really want to do something different and unique for the community.”

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