When the Little Caesars Arena opens for public tours next week, anyone with a smartphone should be able to surf, snap, stream and send for free.
Olympia Entertainment, which operates the stadium, and Comcast cable, announced today the two companies will offer high-speed connections to the web inside the arena and throughout a 50-block area dubbed District Detroit.
"It's such a big part of operating a modern-day arena and creating a modern day fan experience," Tim Collins, a Comcast senior vice president in Michigan, said of digital connectivity. "The Wi-Fi is the one part of the technology that's very visible to consumers. They know it either works — or it doesn't. It's either fast — or it's not."
Comcast said it invested more than $11 million in the project, including $1 million worth of routers and equipment, to install fiber-optic cable and more than 1,000 Wi-Fi access points in the stadium.
The Philadelphia-based cable company has been working on the project for about two years and added extra capacity for future technology and digital applications, Collins said.
In addition to the arena, Comcast also is wiring businesses and residences in the district, a part of Detroit between downtown and Midtown, and it is planning to install technology in some public areas so people can connect via Wi-Fi.
Comcast already is the official Wi-Fi provider in nearly a dozen stadiums, including SunTrust Park in Atlanta; Citizens Bank Park and Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia; Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Fla.; NGR Stadium in Houston; Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.; and American Airlines Arena in Miami.
Wireless connectivity is vital to professional sports teams and leagues as they seek to offer the same digital access and information that fans would have at home, including highlights, social media and fantasy leagues.
But, connectivity in some stadiums — particularly older ones — has been a problem, and didn't work well when many people tried to use it all at once.
Earlier this year, the Detroit Lions and Verizon upgraded cellular and Wi-Fi service at Ford Field by installing new copper and fiber optic cable throughout the stadium. Frustrated fans had struggled to connect.
“We realize being connected and sharing great memories with family and friends is a vital part of enjoying today’s experiences,” said John King, an Olympia Entertainment vice president. "We have coupled on our organization’s decades of experience in developing, owning and operating fan-focused venues with the technological expertise of the Comcast team to provide a cutting-edge experience for everyone attending events at Little Caesars Arena, as well as those living and working in the District Detroit."
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