If you build it, they will come

Born and raised in Atlanta, I’ve been a home team sports fan my entire life – Braves, Hawks, Falcons, even the new professional soccer team, Atlanta United. This year, our city is getting a state-of-the-art stadium for the Braves in SunTrust Park, an equally innovative new home for the Falcons and Atlanta United in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and a newly renovated Phillips Arena for the Hawks. Talk about resetting an Atlanta sports fan's expectation!

Over the last couple of years at rDialogue, I’ve seen how technology can be used to create a better customer experience. And, nothing combines these two things better than the rapid adoption of technology in stadiums (think Dallas' AT&T Stadium). So for me, this is an exciting year. With the start of the Braves 2017 season fast approaching I thought it’d be fitting to see how technology could change the stadium experience for Braves fans.

Hold on to your Cracker Jacks – you’ll see what I mean if you watch this overview of the new Braves Stadium. Between SunTrust Park and The Battery, you’ll be there long before the first pitch and long after the final out. Aside from what will surely be soon considered an iconic design, SunTrust Park’s infrastructure is unrivaled compared to any other U.S. sports stadium.

For instance:

The Hardware (shoutout Comcast)

  • All fiber network
  • 700 wifi access points
  • Two 100 Gbps Ethernet lines
  • Dual 400 megawatt generators

SunTrust Park has 2.5 times the broadband bandwidth of Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, which before SunTrust Park came along was the gold standard for connectivity. Millennials will be able to Snapchat, Instagram, Tweet, and "share" like never before (and during and after) at a sporting event. Just be sure to look up during any pitch so you don’t get dinged by a foul ball or a Freddie #Freebomb (a home run by first-baseman Freddie Freeman for you non-hip people).

“Fast Internet, Finally! Now I won’t kill my data plan. What else you got SunTrust Park?”

Well, let’s just go ahead and address the issue people are most concerned about: traffic. I think we can all agree that nothing beats sitting still at the I-75, I-285 junction. But, if bumper to bumper isn’t your thing, the newest version of the Braves’ Ballpark App will feature a Loyalty 3.0-esque partnership with Waze that will provide drivers real-time updates as traffic conditions change all without leaving the Ballpark App. The revamped app will also feature a couple new tools for fans once they reach SunTrust Park. Fans will be able to use the app to better navigate SunTrust Park for different amenities and if you’re a premium ticket holder you’ll have the ability to order concessions and have them delivered to your seat (More on this later).

As you can see, the Braves are already leveraging assets like the Ballpark App to create a better fan experience, but there is so much more that can be done. This is the fun part. The foundation is in place and we have some big ideas on where we think the Braves could go, so we’re going to call our shot and swing for the fences.

My SunTrust Park Fan Experience Wish List

To really hit a home run for me, I'm hoping the folks driving SunTrust Park are planning on the future with:

Augmented Reality

Imagine centering your phone on a player to reveal detailed stats, highlights and social media handles, or going on a virtual bobble head hunt around the stadium, similar to Pokémon Go.

I recently had the opportunity to hear Braves VP of Marketing Adam Zimmerman speak, and he is excited about the potential use of augmented reality to enhance the fan experience. This technology is easily scalable and the park has the infrastructure to support it. AR could be used to create a stronger bond between the team and the fans by making the fans more knowledgeable about the players they love.

Wearables

Would you like to know how fast Ender Inciarte was running before he laid out to catch that ball in deep right center? Or Matt Kemp’s bat speed on that ball he launched over the left field wall? Wearables could give fans access to real-time data and let them watch that diving catch or home run from the players’ perspective with cameras that can be embedded in sunglasses or placed on the helmets of the batter.

My Braves Butler

It’s nice to be able to order food from my seat and have it delivered or have custom offers pushed to me through an app, but what if we could take this a step further. Let’s say I’m a premium ticket holder, and at most games I get two hot dogs and two Cokes. If a profile built on my preferences and habits existed, then maybe I wouldn’t even have to order. By using predictive analytics, the Braves could anticipate my needs. They could determine what inning I want them in, what toppings I want, and send me a push notification asking me if I’d like my usual order. All I‘d have to do is say yes.

Virtual Reality (VR)

Think of how vast Braves country is. It extends across the Southeast and beyond thanks to Ted Turner and Turner Sports. Some of those fans may only make a few games a year, if any at all. rDialogue faced a similar challenge in our work building Steelers Nation Unite. Nurturing a fan base needs to include those who are scattered around the globe. VR could be used to help connect these fans to the new park and foster their loyalty from wherever they are. Nothing can fully replicate the emotion and energy of watching a game live, but virtual reality comes closer than ever before. Oh, and by the way, the NBA is already doing this.

The Braves have a history of innovation. Just last year they were ranked as the 6th most technologically advanced professional sports organization in the world. They were the first MLB team to partner with 15 Seconds of Fame, an app that sends fans personalized videos after they were featured on the jumbotron. Now in 2017, this app will be in all 30 MLB stadiums and with their partnership with Atlanta Tech Village, we can expect more innovative technologies to enhance the fan experience with a little local flavor. And speaking of local flavor, we’ve mentioned the name SunTrust about 823 times throughout this blog, but only because their name is on the stadium. As the most prominent partner of the Braves, how can they utilize this technology platform the Braves have built to create elevated experiences for Braves fans who are also SunTrust customers? Anything to make payment more frictionless immediately comes to mind, but that’s for another blog… (hint, hint, wink, wink).

SunTrust Park will be the premier place to take in a live sporting event. It’s easy to get fans to visit a stadium once, but with SunTrust Park’s ability to create stronger bonds between the Braves and the fans through technology, you can expect a Braves ticket to be the hottest thing around all summer. Get ready to chop on like never before. Go Braves!

Photos by our team member, Laurie Efman, who recently went on an exclusive tour of SunTrust Park.

Young Zach taking in a Braves game.

Young Zach taking in a Braves game.

About the Author

Zach Mruk was a member of the Atlanta Boys Choir in 2000. His audition song was an enthusiatic rendition of the seminal classic, "...Baby One More Time".