Cisco promises wireless, video extravaganza at new Yankee Stadium

Cisco and the New York Yankees chat up $16 million stadium technology infrastructure

It looks like baseball fans at Yankee Stadium will get to enjoy some of the high-tech features that Cisco envisions for its proposed Cisco Field baseball stadium in California.

Fans at the new Yankee Stadium will have an "immersive" video experience in which 1,100 high-definition screens will keep them glued to the game even when they are not at their seats.

Such was the promise this week from Cisco and the New York Yankees as they discussed the $15 million to $16 million technology infrastructure and potential for the fan experience at the stadium, slated to open in April 2009.

From a Yankees widget on their mobile phone or PDA, fans will be able to view the game from different angle around the stadium, launch instant replays, access statistics specific to the game situation, and interact with other fans in a community of shared interest, Yankees and Cisco officials said.

"This is where high-tech is going," Cisco CEO John Chambers said during the press conference. "We're changing the fan experience. Video is the key word here."

Added Hal Steinbrenner, co-chairman of the Yankees, "We're working on fan amenities which will be second to none. The fan experience is of utmost importance to us. They will be amazed at a lot of the things available to them."

There will be no TVs in the new Yankee Stadium, just 1,100 high-definition IPTV monitors that will provide various views, angles and information on the game -- before, during and after -- with content pushed to the monitors as appropriate. Along with the live game broadcast, monitors will be capable of simultaneously providing up-to-date sports scores, Yankees trivia, news and weather from a single viewing screen.

At the conclusions of games, these monitors will let the Yankees the direct patrons to the nearest exits and provide traffic information. In the event of an emergency, all stadium monitors can be mobilized to display evacuation instructions.

On non-game days, these same monitors can be used to display customized content and information for special events such as conferences, weddings and other group activities.

The infrastructure will be "completely wireless, top to bottom;" players will have touch screen computers at their lockers; and Cisco's high-definition TelePresence virtual conferencing system will be installed at a library in the Bronx to allow students to interact with Yankee players.

"Yankee Stadium will be in a constant state-of-the-artness," said Yankee Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost in a statement that would make Yogi Berra proud.

Cisco officials say the stadium will be the most technologically advanced stadium in the country, if not the world. They said Cisco technology is used in 60% of the sporting venues in North America, including the new Cisco Field being built in Fremont, Calif. 

Fans in luxury suites can view the game from different angles by manipulating the touch screen of Cisco IP phones (compare unified communications products) in those suites. They will also be able to order concessions and Yankees merchandise for delivery to the suite.

Over time, fans will be able order food from their seats through their mobile phones, and high-definition screens on the exterior of the stadium will show what's going on inside, Cisco officials said.

Cisco and the Yankees began discussions two and a half years ago on the technological infrastructure and application for the  stadium, which is replacing the venerable, 85-year-old "House the Ruth Built."

"We had to have the best capabilities" in fan amenities at the new ballpark," Trost said. "We had to step up and allow the fan experience to be improved."

"This is the front edge of what sports and entertainment will be like" in the future, Cisco's Chambers said. Like Star Trek…that's where we're going to go. This will change all of sports."

Cisco said it is in active discussions with other sports franchises about upgrading their stadium fan experience with similar capabilities.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.