After Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan invested $63 million to create the ultimate game-day experience, the response from fans was overwhelming. “In four of the eight categories [for in-game experience], we were ranked the best in the NFL,” said Hussain Naqi, senior vice president of Fan Engagement for the Jaguars, speaking in regard to the results of the annual NFL Voice of the Fan survey. “We were number 1 in game presentation in the NFL. Obviously that speaks for itself among the fans.”
So, how does the only team in the NFL to rank within the top five of all fan engagement categories maintain a firm grasp on its title? Refinement. That was the word I kept hearing while talking with the dream team behind fan engagement. Here’s just a few of the technological surprises waiting for us in the 2015 season.
They’re the biggest in the world, three times the size of the average NFL video board, and they have the capability to display an unheard of 8K resolution. If you thought the new video boards were incredible last season, wait till you see what the team has in store this year.
Now, it’s all about tailoring and refining the most relevant content to the board. In preparation for this season, the Jaguars teamed up with legendary high-def camera manufacturer Red to create breathtaking 6K imagery (six times the resolution of your typical HDTV) tailored specifically to the boards.
Sam Thompson, control room engineer, explained, “When you see 6K on our 8K board it’s going to be as if you’ve seen the board for the first time or as if you’ve seen high-definition for the first time. It’s that incredible.”
Imagine being able to track every player’s speed, positioning, acceleration and distance traveled accurately down to just 6 inches. That dream is now a reality. What began for select teams in the 2014 season as a toe-dip into the field of biometric capture has now become a league-wide initiative with Zebra Technologies’ Next Gen Stats. How it works is that players wear an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip in their shoulder pads. The idea is that this information can help coaches coach smarter, while giving fans an incredible look at the prowess of these athletes. Jaguars executive producer, Larry Rosen, foresees being able to use this information to create a stats-rich replay experience on the video boards. Even cooler, the second generation of this biometric data capture can help the team’s medical staff monitor heart rate, dehydration and lung capacity.
Now you can experience the game from the sidelines without actually being on the sidelines. Last season, the Jaguars teamed up with media tech company 3D-4U to offer Oculus Rift headsets in the Fan Cave. Now, the fan engagement team hopes to expand this cutting-edge, virtual reality technology to more areas stadium-wide with the possibility of using the technology to create more immersive replays on the video boards or even through a game-day app.
Trumping the Living Room Experience
The final piece of the puzzle in fostering the best game-day experience ever is to drive the fans to leave home. To the team, this means adding over 600 Wi-Fi hotspots, allowing for over 30,000 fans to simultaneously post images of them at the game or check their fantasy football. It also comes in the form of the soon-to-be-released game-day app. As Jaguars IT Director, Mike Webb, put it, “Whether it’s posting your messages on social media or having a well-operating Wi-Fi system like at home, we don’t want to have any barriers. So, we’re replicating the living room situation and adding to that with even more features.” The only difference is, your living room probably won’t have state-of-the-art drone technology … but it’s too early to go into details there (wink, wink).