Dallas Cowboys CIO John Winborn shares key insights he’s gained from leading one of the most high-tech stadiums in football
In this article...
- AT&T Stadium provides fans with a dynamic scoreboard and the most Wi-Fi access points of any stadium in the world, resulting in an immersive live sports experience unlike any other
When the Dallas Cowboys’ new home field, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, opened in 2009, it was at the cutting edge of technology. Its renowned massive scoreboard, which stretches between the 20 yard lines, demonstrates how the stadium and the Cowboys organization have embraced technology.
AT&T Stadium wasn’t the first stadium to recognize the importance of improving its IT infrastructure. According to John Winborn, CIO for the Dallas Cowboys organization, ballparks and stadiums built at the beginning of the 21st century were designed with bourgeoning network needs in mind. At that time, there wasn’t too much on the network—point-of-sale systems, ticket scanners and staff computers were just becoming ubiquitous in offices in 2000. But the technology accessing the network was primarily used by employees. “Even the mascot had a computer,” Winborn laughs.
Here, Winborn shares the three tech upgrades that made a huge difference in the fan experience.
- Anytime, anywhere connectivity
Over the last five years, the technology focus began to shift to providing a better fan experience. Fans entering the stadium want better cellular coverage and free Wi-Fi, and Winborn and his team have heeded that demand. “We have more access points in our stadium for our Wi-Fi network than any other stadium. Our fans can get connected and stay connected throughout the event,” Winborn states. Considering AT&T Stadium holds more than 80,000 people on game day—and holds the record for largest NFL regular-season crowd at 105,121—their network has to be robust.
“AT&T Stadium’s Wi-Fi network has to support 80,000 people simultaneously during each Cowboys game.”
- The many uses of a mobile app
It isn’t all about being and staying connected while inside the stadium. The Cowboys wanted to enhance the fan experience beyond the game itself. “We’ve revolutionized the fan experience through our mobile app,” says Winborn. Through the app, fans are able to map out every step toward game day. The app maps out the best route to the stadium and mobile ticketing facilitates the entire ticketing process. “We were the first team to completely replace print-at-home with app-based mobile tickets,” Winborn adds.
Inside the stadium, mobile app users have access to streaming video and information about players and the game that they can’t get elsewhere. “Our primary product is on the field, and the idea is for technology to complement that, not take away from it,” Winborn adds.
“We’ve revolutionized the fan experience beyond the game itself through our mobile app.”
- The scoreboard that everyone’s talking about
Then there is that giant scoreboard. “Our scoreboard is the most unique feature of our stadium,” says Winborn. “It’s probably the biggest difference maker in the experience here.” In other stadiums, the scoreboard is in the end zone, meaning a large section of fans will never be able to see it well. By rethinking that tradition and putting the scoreboard over the field, every fan has a great view.
When asked how technology has transformed the overall fan experience at the stadium, Winborn says it comes down to two primary areas. First, it has sped up the different processes involved in any live event, such as ticket scanning and accepting credit cards instead of cash at parking lots. Second, information is more readily available than ever—with the app, fans have all the information they want or need at their fingertips.
“You have to remember that we only sell a few products: parking, concessions, merchandise and entertainment,” Winborn explains. “We use technology to make those experiences better.”