Sports Venues Going High Tech To Keep Fans
May is the biggest month of the year for Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track hosts back to back weekends of NASCAR racing. And the speedway has a new attraction to get fans in the seats. The track is now home to the world's largest HD video screen. It's 200 feet wide and 80 feet tall. That's wider and taller than the White House. CMS General Manager Marcus Smith says the display is impressive. "There's gonna be over nine million LED light bulbs on the screen," he says. "They tell me that if you turned it facing upwards you'd be able to see it from the moon." Many stadiums and tracks are upgrading technology. The goal is to create an experience that surpasses what fans get through television, the Internet and their phones. Today's NASCAR broadcasts can make viewers feel like they're at a race. Yes, there's high definition television. TV also provides features that most fans can't actually get at the track. Fox Sports Chairman and CEO David Hill has led the way in giving viewers more. And there's a lot of them. "Everything from how much turn a driver is putting on the wheel," he says. "The pressure that's going on to the gas pedal. Pressure on the brakes. What the RPMs are going into the corners. It goes on and on and on." Fans can supplement that information with even more content from their laptops or phones. Fans who use Sprint's NASCAR app can listen in to driver/crew chief communications. Fans have so many options, it's easy to see why some find it easier to save their money, avoid the crowds, and just sit on the couch. And many do. Baseball has seen an eight percent decline in attendance since 2007. The NFL had more blackouts last year than in any year since 2004. NASCAR also has more empty seats. How many more isn't known because NASCAR doesn't release its attendance figures. The NBA is the one exception. Its attendance was up this year, but by just one percent. The economy gets at least some of the blame for that. But David Holland of Cisco Systems says stadiums haven't kept with the times. "People will show up at a venue and they'll find the experience they have there is not at par with even with what they can have in the home," he says. "And all of these venue operators recognize this and see the potential for losing ticket sales and not being able to fill their venues, if indeed the video experience in the home continues to improve." Holland runs Cisco's sports and entertainment division. The unit was created two and a half years ago to capitalize on the need for better stadium technology. Holland says sports leagues recognize they need to cater to young people who've grown up in a high tech era and need more stimulation. "They have these integrated experiences that they demand," Holland says. "And so sports is no different than other parts of our lives. And they want to have the ability to jump from maybe video replays to live video content to interacting friends who might be in the venue. . . or perhaps not." Some of Cisco's work includes outfitting the new Meadowlands Stadium - home to the New York Giants and Jets - with 2,000 HD video screens. Other clients include the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees. But there's still a lot of work ahead. Holland equates it to being in the first inning of a 9-inning game. And when those final innings roll around, no one knows exactly what the in-person experience will be like. "But one thing I do know is that it will be dramatically different than it is today," he states. "The acceleration in what's possible though Internet technologies is going to make even things like 3-D holographic imaging possible So it's very possible you could be sitting in your seat watching multiple angles of the same play on a - not on a tablet - but perhaps on your lap. And share it with friends in the venue." For now, the next big thing, is the new high definition screen at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The track will unveil the new display tomorrow. It will make its debut during the May 21st All-Star Race.