Badgers sports: Fan experience may go high-tech at Camp Randall, Kohl Center

2013-04-18T11:55:00Z Badgers sports: Fan experience may go high-tech at Camp Randall, Kohl CenterANDY BAGGOT| Wisconsin State Journal | abaggot@madison.com | 608-252-6175 madison.com
April 18, 2013 11:55 am  • 

Imagine you and your family have just taken your seats at Camp Randall Stadium, a gorgeous late-August Saturday sky overhead, when pangs of hunger strike.

The University of Wisconsin football team is 10 minutes into its season opener against Massachusetts on Aug. 31, but instead of having to venture to the nearest concession stand, you use your smartphone to place and pay for an order to be retrieved when the first quarter is over.

Upon arrival at the concession area, you step into an express line reserved for online purchases and pick up your food. You get back to your seat without missing a play from scrimmage.

Such a convenience is one of many digital-age concepts being gathered and assessed by the UW Athletic Department as part of a concentrated push to enhance customer service in and around Camp Randall and the Kohl Center.

“We’ve brain-stormed,’’ UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said of his senior staff and department heads. “I’ve asked them for things — different ways that we can do things — and they’ve come up with some good ideas.’’

Everything from Internet access to more interactive displays to a more modern, expansive approach to concessions is on the table. Alvarez said he’d like to have as many upgrades in place as possible for 2013-14.

“We’re taking every part of our operation and looking under the hood,’’ said Justin Doherty, the UW associate athletic director for external relations. “Our No. 1 objective is: Are fans liking the experience they’re having?’ ’’

Doherty said UW Athletic Department officials are responding in part to growing attendance issues at their premier attractions.

According to a recent report in The Capital Times, 25 percent of game tickets purchased for the marquee Badgers sports — football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s hockey and volleyball — went unused in 2012-13.

In addition, the average actual attendance figure for those sports has dropped 13 percent in the past six years, a trend tied to multiple causes, including the economy, cost of attendance — tickets, parking, concessions and travel — and the perceived quality of the opponent.

The downturn is so acute in men’s hockey the operating budget for UW Athletics in 2013-14 projects $470,000 less in ticket revenue compared to 2012-13.

Feedback from annual season ticket-holder surveys also factor into the initiative. Doherty added the Big Ten Conference is involved as well, having issued a directive to its members to increase their emphasis on making sure fans have good experiences at their venues.

“Everybody in our business — not just college, but pros — is thinking (and) brainstorming, ‘How do you make the game-day experience for your fans better?’ ’’ Alvarez said.

“TV sets are getting too good. The experience of sitting in your living room and watching (games) sometimes is much better than going through the hassle, the crowds, the security and that stuff. Every one of us is going through that.’’

Doherty attended the NCAA Frozen Four for men’s hockey in Pittsburgh last week and noted so many inside the Consol Energy Center were focused intently on their smartphones. He saw this in the stands and the concourses, as well as rink-side during the games. He saw people of all ages engaged in all aspects of social media, a trend that’s expected to grow in the coming years.

“We need to make accommodations for that,’’ he said.

UW has a central system that brings cellular data service into its sports facilities, but Crown Castle International, which manages the process, requires individual providers to negotiate for access.

Verizon signed up last year and Alvarez said AT&T representatives have expressed interest in doing so as well.

A year after introducing the free, highly popular Wisconsin Football Game Day app for smartphones, UW officials are expected to unveil ones geared toward men’s and women’s basketball and men’s and women’s hockey.

In the midst of describing a host of possible interactive ideas, Doherty mentioned how Miami (Fla.) live-streamed a pregame speech by men’s basketball coach Jim Larranaga on its website before a recent NCAA tournament game.

Doherty also spoke of displays where fans could scan an action photo with their smartphone and hear a description of that moment, like a clutch shot by Devin Harris, or an event, say the 2011 NCAA women’s hockey title game.

“It’s outreach,’’ Doherty said.

Alvarez said recent visits to other venues, including the United Center and Soldier Field in Chicago, drove home the point that the concession process at Badgers games needs to be updated. He mentioned the offerings and the modern, themed ambiance.

“It’s fresh, it’s bright,’’ he said. “We’ve got to update our concession stands for sure.’’

Alvarez said that just as improvement is expected from the 23 UW sports and their coaches on an annual basis, the same holds true for customer comfort.

“We want to improve our gameday experience for our fans,’’ he said. “There’s a message being sent that we care about them and we want to take care of them.’’

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(18) Comments

  1. Died in the wool
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    Died in the wool - April 19, 2013 9:06 am
    They can have all of the high tech bells and whistles they want but none of it will matter until they provide free wifi or at least working cellular service in Camp Randall.
  2. DJM1977
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    DJM1977 - April 18, 2013 5:55 pm
    I pay...ooops "Donate, $1600 for the right to buy my 4 season seats for football. If I pay that kind of money, I should get a suite pass for a game and live like a king and even have a beer or mixer. That said - to solve the problem of the "COMMON FAN" like me:
    1) Serve Beer
    2) Serve Beer
    3) Serve Beer
    4) Let the FANS have FUN
    5) Serve Beer
  3. DopplerDoug
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    DopplerDoug - April 18, 2013 2:22 pm
    Wow, I really hope they expand their Twitter feed display on the scoreboards, cuz I really wouldn't know what's going on in the game without it. Best of all, they pre-filter it so that only positive comments are shown, and then repeat them over and over and over again just in case I missed it the first time they were shown.
  4. RobinYount
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    RobinYount - April 18, 2013 1:48 pm
    Waking up early is not the challenge. Being fully prepared for the game, which requires lots of tailgating and eats and drinks, is not possible for an 11:00 kickoff.
  5. Steve_R
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    Steve_R - April 18, 2013 1:22 pm
    I guess I'm just a Luddite at heart but I cannot understand why so many people think they have to be able to make cell phone calls, tweets or facebook entries from an athletic event. Just sit back and enjoy the game. You can see replays on the big screens.

    Ordering food from your seat? Come on. Eat before you go in the stadium or the Kohl Center, and if you get hungry once you are inside, and god help you, you have to actually stand in line, T. S. Eliot. What are you gonna do, keel over from hunger?

    Maybe you'll be able to get a half time "appointment" at a toilet through your cell phone, too.

    And five bucks for a bottle of water is ridiculous. Allow for a few carry ins. A bottle of water, some reasonably priced peanuts, etc...what's the harm?

    Parking near the Kohl Center and the stadium is limited. You're never gonna solve that problem. Use the buses.

    All this stuff Barry and his boys are talking about is just going to increase your ticket price.
    And you're going there to see a game, right? Even if it's UMass. You want a fine dining experience? Camp Randall and the Kohl Center are never going to be able to do that for you.
  6. Timothy A
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    Timothy A - April 18, 2013 12:56 pm
    Want to improve the experience? How about not charging 5 bucks for a freaking bottle of water? I understand it's a Coke product, but some generic water that tastes better the Coke crap is .50 at a grocery store. And the parking costs is just crazy as well. I'll have a better experience when I can afford to go to more games.
  7. 53562
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    53562 - April 18, 2013 11:47 am
    AT&T just turned up LTE service in Madison and its very fast (much faster than my neighbor who has Verizon). I downloaded 31meg per second this morning. The coverage area is great also. UW did a stupid thing by hiring one company that requires AT&T and Verizon to pay them to provide wireless service to the fans in Camp Randall. UW is responsible for the poor service in the stadium.
  8. 1trik2
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    1trik2 - April 18, 2013 11:41 am
    So many "fans" don't watch the games anymore they follow their twitter feed or text friends, this includes my kids. I turn my phone off and just enjoy the atmosphere, but when I look at the ring I see a twitter board flashing quotes from people at the game or at home commenting on plays or wishing the team luck. Like anyone cares what they think, narcissism at it's best and it isn't just the kids doing it. Who am I kidding I'm posting on a message board maybe I'm the narcissist.
    Report Abuse
    ABDGRFN - April 18, 2013 10:36 am
    I love the 11 am start times and I have a two hour drive to get there.
    I leave my cell phone in my car during the games, half the people around me don't even watch the game anymore. They are too busy playing on theirs to watch. I don't know why some of them even bother to come to the games.
    How about lowering the prices at the concession stands a little?????
  10. thedoctor
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    thedoctor - April 18, 2013 9:47 am
    at&t is terrible wherever you are. its your problem for being with at&t.
  11. Runrunrun
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    Runrunrun - April 18, 2013 9:35 am
    Allow instant replays of all plays as the pros do that would truly enhance the stadium experience. I know there is an NCAA rule against controversial replays but if they can show it at home they can show it in the stadium. Change the rule.
  12. UWbadgers16
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    UWbadgers16 - April 18, 2013 8:40 am
    I would appreciate some additional cell phone towers or signal amplifiers. I have AT&T, and when I'm at a football game, I won't get anything. No calls, no texts. They all come later once I leave the stadium. I thank my lucky stars if I can get a text out to someone.
  13. PosterX
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    PosterX - April 18, 2013 7:37 am
    11am on Saturday morning is too early? Are you the overnight ER doctor?!?!?!
  14. RobinYount
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    RobinYount - April 18, 2013 7:29 am
    I would like to see the attendance stats re-cut to exclude women's volleyball and b-ball. Those two sports have never come close to filing arenas even at low ticket prices. They cost more than they take in. The real issue is the decline from full attendance at the 3 revenue sports. Adding women's sports dilutes from the power of the stats b/c I don't know if the "unused seats" are in volleyball or men 's hockey. There have always been unused seats in volleyball, so that isn't interesting.
  15. RobinYount
    Report Abuse
    RobinYount - April 18, 2013 7:25 am
    Agree with Felix--as long as kickoff times are scheduled at 11:00 a.m., count me out. There is no more clear way to say to the home team fans, "We don't care about you, we care about pleasing our TV partners" than a 11:00 kickoff. I realize there are complications and TV revenue tradeoffs and I don't even have enough info that would allow me to criticize the Athletic Department. All I'm saying is, "I'm out." And once you factor in 2-3 kickoffs at 11:00 a.m. and a couple unworthy non-conference games, then I no longer need season tickets. Which is the decision I made a few years ago.
  16. bluecollarallthetime
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    bluecollarallthetime - April 18, 2013 6:20 am
    Sunday Monday home Hockey series I've followed Badger Hockey for 30 years and this is as asinine as it gets.
  17. john q public
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    john q public - April 18, 2013 6:13 am
    I cannot wait to see how concession stands from the 60s would handle pre orders. Hey Joe, some one wants 2 dogs, a brat, 3 sodas and M&Ms to be picked up at half time. But John, the game hasn't even started yet.
  18. Felix
    Report Abuse
    Felix - April 18, 2013 5:35 am
    Let us not forget the many absurd tip-off/kick-off times.

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