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HOK’s Kirsty Mitchell on Integrating Technology Into Sports Facilities

In this guest column, Kirsty Mitchell, a project manager for HOK’s Sports + Recreation + Entertainment group in London, explores how emerging technologies will shape future sports facilities.

Excerpted from PanStadia & Arena Management:

As sports and entertainment facility designers, it is our job to constantly investigate emerging trends and explore new technologies that can enhance the spectator experience. As the war between sofa and stadium rages on, every touchpoint in the fan experience is increasingly important to attracting fans to view a game in person. Stadium owners are leveraging different levels of technology to create immersive, engaging experiences authentic to their venues.

The evergreen saying in sports is that, ‘stadiums are the new cathedrals,’ and certainly venues continue to offer fans something breathtaking and iconic. Whilst not all experiences have to be super-high-tech, for example, the pleasure of witnessing world-class tennis on a massive video screen at Wimbledon’s Henman Hill. Yet this is increasingly rare. In Atlanta, Georgia, the renovation of State Farm Arena incorporated a seamless, four-sided, centre-hung scoreboard, as opposed to the usual combination of screens with visible joints showing. This allows the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks to program content continuously around the LED surface. Just down the street in Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz Stadium boasts the world’s first 360-degree halo video board (pictured above), a tool which is leveraged to share video content in the round, as no venue has before. Most recently, Argentinian football club Estudiantes de La Plata celebrated the reopening of its stadium with a realistic, large flaming lion hologram, viewable through a smartphone app or on the big screen, that set the internet buzzing.

While staying home to watch a game may be cheaper and more convenient, fans who choose to stay on the sofa risk missing the powerful social experiences and “goosebump moments” that technologies can create.

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