November 27, 2015
The National Football League (NFL) has done an excellent job of incorporating technological advancements into their stadiums and pushing the envelope as to what is possible. Soldier Field, home to the Chicago Bears, is no different. Since its renovation in 2003, the lakefront stadium has seen a few key upgrades as the organization keeps pace with mobile devices, connectivity concerns, and the refinement of existing video technology.
Mobile Technology Updates for the Chicago Bears and Soldier Field
A large percentage of fans now have a computer in their pocket, and they want to use it at a Bears game to enhance their experience. Soldier field has responded to their fans on two fronts: a comprehensive mobile app and a wireless network to support its use.
- DAS Network: The Chicago Bears installed a distributed antenna system (DAS) network to account for rising mobile connectivity demands and adhere to the new NFL WiFi and cellular requirements. With Soldier Field’s capacity of 61,500 fans, a powerful and dedicated network was needed to enable access. More than 250 strategically-placed antennas carpet the property to allow for extensive WiFi coverage. DAS networks like this allow smartphones to connect directly to an antenna instead of to the clogged networks of their particular carriers.
- Chicago Bears App: The Chicago Bears smartphone application resembles many of the NFL apps throughout the league. It allows fans access to injury reports, depth charts, interviews, replays, and fantasy stats, while also enabling a streamlined connection to social media. Fans can check-in at the stadium and tweet or post to Facebook with a single click.
Other Technology Enhancements
Beyond mobile networks, smartphones, and applications, Soldier Field and the Chicago Bears are leveraging advancements in existing technology to improve upon the football experience. So what does this advanced technology in soldier field look like?
- New Video Screens: Two enormous video screens measuring at 40×128 feet wide were installed for the 2015-2016 season. Each one is more than three times the size of the screens they replaced. Even more impressive, the screens deliver 1080p high-definition video, which matches the most sophisticated displays across the industry.
- RFID Technology: Football is a game of statistics, and the ever-popular fantasy football is driven by those stats. To further detail the precise speed, yardage, and power of the NFL players, the Chicago Bears have radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips installed in their padding to better track data in real time. At this time, RFID technology is not small enough to attach to a football, but we can expect its capabilities to reach that point in the future.
Ddvanced Technology In Soldier Field
The Chicago Bears are far from the only team to improve their stadium by incorporating new technologies. To name just a few, the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals have each accomplished amazing things in their respective fields.
- Unite this House – Dallas Cowboys: Leveraging smartphone technology, the Dallas Cowboys developed the “Unite this House” function for their mobile app. At key points during a game, fans will be prompted to press the Dallas Cowboys star on their smartphones. This action will cause the phone to flash and vibrate in unison with every other smartphone connected to the app. The pace of the flashing and vibrating will accelerate, swell, and release in a synchronized cheer.
- WiFi Hubs – San Francisco 49ers: Levi’s Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers, hosts an impressive number of WiFi Hubs. Due to the rising popularity of fantasy football, WiFi demands continue to increase. As a result, the 49ers installed 1,200 WiFi hubs around the property, four times more than the league requirement. Furthermore, fans can upload photos to a Yahoo-owned Flickr account, and some of these photos will be shown on the mega-screen during the second half of the game.
- Retractable Field – Arizona Cardinals: In perhaps the most amazing technology deployed in NFL stadiums across the country, the University of Phoenix Stadium hosts the only retractable field. The Arizona Cardinals organization faced a conundrum. The desert sun was too hot for fans to sit in an open-air stadium, but the retractable roof does not allow in enough sunlight to sustain the natural grass field. Instead of compromising on either front, the Cardinals developed an innovative solution. Through a process taking roughly 100 minutes, the entire field rolls into the stadium on a track. When the game is over and the fans exit, the field is once again rolled out of the stadium to where it can receive ample sunlight outside.
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