Levi’s Stadium: one of the most technologically advanced sports venues
On Sunday 6 November we got the unique opportunity to visit Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers (NFL, American Football), located in Santa Clara, California and one of the premier sports and entertainment venues in the world. The stadium opened in 2014 and is very known for being one of the most high-tech stadiums in the world. It’s now running its 3rd season.
About Levi’s Stadium
The structure of the stadium takes advantage of the Silicon Valley climate and is very open, airy and big: 1,850,000 square feet. The venue costed $1.2 billion USD and seats approximately 68,500 people. It owns 165 luxury suites and 8,500 club seats. 500,000 gallons of paint, 75,000 tons of steel and 30,000 cubic yards of concrete were needed to build this impressive venue.
Stadium app, platform & technology
Both Levi’s stadium and the 49ers have a separate application. With the Levi’s Stadium app, fans receive rewards (loyalty points) when for example they come earlier to the stadium. About 30% of users actually uses the app, while the industry standard is just 5%. In the meanwhile, data of 400,000 people is collected.
“It’s all about removing friction of coming to a live experience to get rid of all inconveniences, so that the live experience beats the home experience.”
It was VenueNext who pioneered the first integrated stadium technology platform for the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Their Stadium App, together with data dashboards, have elevated the overall guest experience for 49ers fans:
- Mobile tickets via the app give guests fast access to events, amenities and parking
- With on-demand video, guests get personal access to mobile video content and multi-angle playback 5-7 seconds after the action happens
- Pre –order and pick up food & beverages during an event
- Guests have the option to upgrade their seats, purchase better ones or buy additional experiences once they arrive at the venue
- Season ticket holders that can’t make it to every game can turn tickets into currency or put them on a secondary marketplace. Currency can be used to purchase future seat upgrades, merchandise or experiences like team “meet and greet”
- Guests can easily explore everything going on around them, including the shortest lines for restrooms, food, merchandise,..
- Groups of mobile users can receive messages in real time based on their location: no wait time at specific concession stands, limited edition merchandise that is on sale,..
VenueNext and Levi’s Stadium want to know exactly who is who in the stadium, as this is key data: from the fan’s house to the stadium and to where they park the car. It’s all about removing friction of coming to a live experience to get rid of all inconveniences, so that the live experience beats the home experience.
What is really fantastic about the technology is the predictive analytics the stadium receives: when as an outcome of this analytics a guest probably will not prolong his/her season ticket, this fan gets marked as a VIP. When he/she enters the stadium, the color of the turnstile/scan will turn blue and guest services will know they need to talk to them pro-actively to give them a better experience, to try to engage them for the future.
Another advantage is when people have seats in the upper bowl but the stadium is not full, guest services will give them better seats. This saves money because of less concession stands that have to be opened and the customer will be happy with better seats.
Usage status during the first season:
- Over 65% of 49ers season ticket holders linked their tickets to the app
- Team’s data on ticket holders grew 12 times: from 17,000 before implementing technology to 203,000 at the end of season 1
- Levi’s gained $2 million in revenue from food, beverage, merchandising, parking and in-app sponsorships
Arrival & first impressions
To get to the stadium, we took the VTA light rail train which is part of a 67,9 km network and owns 62 stations. It is a train serving San Jose, California and its suburbs in Silicon Valley. All went very smooth & easy.
“Something we really found remarkable during our tour to the West Coast of the USA is the huge revenue sports venues gain just by selling parking tickets.”
Another option to get to the stadium is by bike, thanks to a specific bike trail. Of course the stadium also has a lot of parking spaces for cars: about 30,000 to be exact in 28 parking lots. Parking costs on average 50 dollar (tailgating), which is a real important source of revenue. Something we really found remarkable during our tour to the West Coast of the USA is the huge revenue sports venues gain just by selling parking tickets.
From the outside, the stadium façade and the 2 open corners catched our eye. 49er’s branding and security checks were present all around the stadium. We were well received by stewards and staff and the security checks went very smooth. Signage of gates, parking lots, etc.. was really well taken care of. I have the feeling they put more focus on signage compared to stadiums in Europe. Everywhere we could see the ‘fan satisfaction’ devices, where every fan can express how happy he/she was with the waiting time. The first thing we saw when entering through the staff entrance was a quote about customer service from previous American football coach Bill Walsh. All staff members should keep this in mind when dealing with guests and customers.
“Afford each person the same respect, support, and fair treatment you would expect if your roles were reversed. Deal with people individually, not as objects who are part of a herd – that’s the critical factor. ” Bill Walsh
Once arrived in the stadium bowl we saw that the game day rehearsals had already begun: an American flag covered the whole pitch, for acknowledging and saluting US soldiers. It’s quite remarkable to see how much the Americans respect their soldiers. We also noticed this in the stands: soldiers in uniform received congratulations and compliments from the fans.
Food & beverage
During game days, about 3,000 staff give fans the best possible experience. Amongst those are 750 people in guest services. To incentivize staff, poker chips are handed to them when they are friendly to guests or when they take good care of a guest in need, etc..
“The spending average per fan for food, beverage and merchandising is about 27 dollar/cap, which is far more than the European average of just a few euro’s each.”
Also unique is the in-seat delivery ordering that runs through the Levi’s Stadium app. Guests can order food when they are in their seat and can also set a maximum of waiting time. 100 runners are making sure everyone gets his/her delivery in time. The average waiting time is 10 to 12 minutes. We honestly have to say that until now, only 1,000 fans by average make use of this service. Rather than being a revenue generator this is more of an extra service to the fans. The spending average per fan for food, beverage and merchandising is about 27 dollar/cap, which is far more than the European average of just a few euro’s each.
Gameday Entertainment & Promotions
I have to be honest: because we were there for a tour and meetings, we didn’t have a lot of time to experience all the pre-game entertainment in and around the stadium. What was clear is that also here, tailgating is an American national sport and fans love to stay in the parking lot to eat, drink and party together. It’s not always easy to get them inside the venue very early, but still the stadium tries to give them extra loyalty points, organises brand activation entertainment, etc.. As previously mentioned, huge money is earned by parking alone, so there’s also a very positive side about this.
Inside the huge concourse there are interactive screens everywhere, where fans can pick their favourite player and take pictures, like we also saw in AT&T Stadium last year in Dallas. Enormous screens to follow all the NFL action are present throughout the concourse, with smartphone charging stations underneath the tables: how convenient ;-). This is really something that still lacks in European stadiums. You can also find separate charging stations everywhere in the stadium.
Pre-game entertainment organised by Levi’s Stadium:
- Faithful Mile: this 60,000 sq. ft. entertainment zone provides a pregame destination to engage with 49ers partners, enjoy live entertainment from the Pepsi Stage, and hang out in the Bud Light Beer Garden to watch all the early NFL action
- 49ers Museum presented by Sony: too bad we didn’t get the chance to visit the 49ers museum. I would have loved to compare it tot he European museum experiences. The museum is dedicated to its values of education, innovation and heritage and is committed to serving as an exciting, engaging home for fans of all ages
- Dignity Health Plaza: a stop for any fans with kids on game days. Families are welcome to join in on Youth Football drills, the play kind zone, face painting, a red & gold hair spray station and 49ers Kids Club sign-ups
- Faithful Rewards Presented by Esurance: fans are encouraged to interact with the team through Faithful Rewards, the official loyalty program of the 49ers. Members can earn rewards for participating in 49ers activities including attending games, viewing content on the 49ers app, etc//
- 49ers Kids Club: members are invited to several exclusive events, receive their Kids Club tin lunchbox membership kit and on gamedays have a chance to have their birthday displayed on the video screen or be selected as the 49ers Kickoff Kid
The stadium wasn’t sold out as the 49ers are having a really bad season (1 win only against 7 losses). Luckily we had a great opportunity to experience the game from the skylounge at the rooftop.
One of the unique features is the green rooftop (27,000 sq ft) on top of the stadium’s suite tower. The three solar bridges, connecting the main parking area to the stadium, include hundreds of solar panels. The stadium received a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification for this: solar panels induce sufficient energy for the 10 home games. The stadium uses recycled water for field & landscape irrigation, flushing devices, etc.. The native plant growing roof acts as a supplementing cooling for the floors below. On the roof, recycled wood and concrete is used.
Enjoying the awesome view on the stadium and the pitch, we had easy access to food & beverage. We also had tickets to check out the game on field level, which was a nice variation to be closer to the action and the fans. The seats were very clean and comfortable and the stadium bowl looked really nice: imagine how this could look even better when completely full and during a top-class game.
The clubs and lounges look fantastic as should be. Buying food is easy and there’s a huge selection. 25 elevators and 38 escalators have to make sure people have easy access and that catering staff can deliver as fast as possible.
Of course there are screens everywhere to not miss any second of the action. The Wi-Fi worked really well thanks to the 1,200 access points and the app worked brilliantly throughout the whole game.
Very remarkable is the way Americans experience the game. It’s not just about the minutes of play, it’s also all about the entertainment. During the game, fans are standing in the concourse, lounges & plazas –not just during the breaks- instead of being on their seat.
Although the game wasn’t sold out and the 49ers lost against the New Orleans Saints (23-41), it was still a great experience to be in Santa Clara visiting the famous Levi’s Stadium.