Houston Astros' Minute Maid Park Offers Fans Up-to-the- Minute Information with Cisco Wi-Fi Solution
Feature Article Cisco Systems Enhances Sporting Events with Wireless Solutions
January 6, 2005
By Stacy Williams, News@Cisco
The Houston Astros Major League Baseball team is making it more fun and informative than ever for fans to watch games in person at Minute Maid Park, the Astros' home stadium. A Cisco Wi-Fi technology solution deployed in partnership with Wide Area Management Services, Inc. (WAMS) and managed and operated by Time Warner Cable allows fans to check information about the game they are watching using their Wi-Fi laptops and PDAs. Fans simply subscribe to Time Warner Cable's high-speed online Road Runner service.
Given the sheer number of games played each season in professional baseball (162), over the years the sport has become more statistics driven than professional football (16) or basketball (82) that have fewer games. Statistics help quantify and qualify the action, such as which hitters are currently hitting well or which relief pitcher is most likely to get the upcoming batter out. Unlike professional football or basketball, in which game plans, luck, or dominating players are major factors, statistics are a prime driving force behind the strategy in professional baseball.
By being informed with pertinent statistics, fans can make educated guesses as to what will happen next on the field, and this predictive power is half the fun of watching professional baseball. This type of in-depth statistical analysis and other real-time updates, however, have typically been more readily available to fans watching baseball on television.
"I love going to baseball games at the ballpark because of the atmosphere," says Brad Bourland, director of IT for the Houston Astros. "But sometimes in the past I felt I had to give up access to the instant information about the game that I would get on TV. Our Cisco Wi-Fi solution lets us deliver that type of information and analysis to fans, and at the end of the day, everything we do revolve around creating a better experience for fans."
Future applications will provide video snapshots from other major league baseball games and digital scorecards that allow fans to score the game of their wireless device. Busy fans can also check their email or browse the Internet without ever leaving their seats.
Fans aren't the only ones to benefit from the Cisco Wi-Fi solution. Sports media covering the game can instantly and securely submit photos and video to meet publication deadlines. with a secure, wireless network in place, Minute Maid Park can allow food concession and retail vendors to take advantage of new applications such as meal order taking and inventory management. Other applications such as security systems for guest safety are also a possibility.
The Cisco Wi-Fi solution is comprised of nearly 100 Cisco Aironet Access placed strategically throughout the stadium. For Minute Maid Park and the Astros, the intention from the beginning was to build a secure wireless network capable of handling a multitude of applications. According to Bourland, Cisco was the clear choice for the massive installation, which constitutes the largest "hot spot" in Houston and is among the largest in the U.S. The Astros also use Cisco equipment for the team's wired corporate network as well, including Cisco routers, switches, and Cisco PIX Security Appliances.
"We plan to use our Cisco Wi-Fi solution in a wide range of ways. With Cisco, we have consistent coverage and the industry standard in both wired and wireless data," says Bourland. "The security and scalability of the Cisco gear is so top notch, in fact, that the only equipment we wanted here was Cisco."
More than just a novelty, the Cisco Wi-Fi solution makes solid business sense for the Astros and for Minute Maid Park. In addition to revenues from subscription services that will be made available to fans, the park expects to enhance revenues for food concessions and retail vendors. And, because the stadium is a hot spot 24 hours a day, seven days a week, other events such as concerts will be able to take advantage of the Cisco Wi-Fi solution for their vendors, promoters and others who need to interact with stadium goers. The park also expects to reduce costs for services such as stadium security, because the infrastructure is already established.
"As an organization, we believe that technology is a key differentiator that allows us to do things faster, better, cheaper, and more efficiently and to offer fans services that they're not going to get anywhere else," says Bourland. "But we also wouldn't have deployed our Cisco Wi-Fi solution if it didn't make financial sense. Given the growing number of wireless devices in the market and the services available for them, we decided the time for wireless is now."
Stacy Williams is a freelance journalist located in Phippsburg, CO.
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