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How local sports arenas have become tech playgrounds

Margie Manning



The FIBA sports technology panelists (from left): William Walsh, Tampa Bay Rays; Atul Khosla, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Rob Higgins, Tampa Bay Sports Commission; Steve Griggs, Tampa Bay Lightning; Jack Elkins, Orlando Magic

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have partnered with Intel on technology to enhance the fan experience inside the stadium.

The Bucs will use Intel True View, with ultra-high-definition cameras and 3D technology, to show fans at Raymond James Stadium multiple-angle views of plays, including from the perspective of the players, said Atul Khosla, chief corporate development and brand officer for the NFL team.

Aviv Shapira (left) and Matteo Shapira, co-founders of Replay Technologies

Khosla was among the leaders of the area’s sports organizations that talked about how technology is changing sports during the Florida-Israel Business Accelerator’s Innovation Fusion Wednesday night in Tampa.

The brothers who created the technology behind Intel True View, Aviv and Matteo Shapira, delivered one of the keynote addresses at the program. They initially sketched the idea on a paper napkin, and led their Israeli-based company, Replay Technologies, through a lot of ups and downs before they sold it to Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) for a reported $175 million in 2015, Reuters reported.

Intel True View lets fans in the stadium see plays the way fans watching on TV see them, Khosla said.

“The next version of the technology allows you to compress that data and get it to your phone way faster and in a fashion that people in the stadium can see that we can’t show on the main board because of time constraints,” Khosla said. “Not only do you get to see stuff that you would see at home, but you get to see stuff that you would not get to see at home at the stadium.”

There’s a lot of competition for fans’ time and entertainment dollars, so the Tampa Bay Rays use technology to make the fan experience as seamless as possible, said William Walsh, vice president of strategy and development.

“Tropicana Field was the first professional sports venue in North America to go entirely cash-free this season. It had some people scratching their heads, but we’ve done a lot of research and it shows there’s a measurable impact and reduction in ques and in wait times. That’s a way to use technology to reduce that friction and get people back to their seats faster so they can enjoy the game,” Walsh said.

Amalie Arena, the home of the Tampa Bay Lightning, is a key part of Water Street Tampa, the $3 billion mixed-use project under development by Strategic Property Partners, controlled by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment. The Lightning and SPP have partnered to create a “smart city,” with its own WiFi and where connections are plentiful, said Steve Griggs, the Lightning’s CEO.

“On your app you would have everything from Waze, to the digital parking garage that we’ll have, to digital tickets,” Griggs said. “The only thing you have to bring is your phone and that will push you out to other pieces that we’ll have throughout the district so it’s an immersive experience, not just in the arena and not just the district but combined together.”

Water Street and the Riverwalk in downtown Tampa will play a big role when Tampa hosts the Super Bowl in 2021, said Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission.

“Having not hosted since 2009, there’s a lot that our community has done in the last 12 years, and the Riverwalk is a big part of that. That will be the backbone and epicenter of the experience. Water Street will be a big part of it too. Super Bowl is not only about telling how far we’ve come over the last 12 years but it’s where we’re going … You can bet we’re going to do everything we can from a technology standpoint to tell that story,” Higgins said.

Sports teams can make a difference in the local technology ecosystem, said Jack Elkins, director of innovation for the Orlando Magic. The NBA team this year partnered with Violet Defense, an Orlando-based germ-killing company with patented UV technology for germ-killing protection, and when the news went out in a press release, the company got calls from other professional sports teams, Elkins said.

“When we do things like go to the Florida Venture Forum Early Stage Venture Conference (held a few weeks ago in Orlando), we don’t see many other teams. We wish we could see more of our colleagues out there,” he said. “Change is constant in our business, and we need to be attuned to that. It’s also being attuned to what’s next, so we’re not as reactive.”










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