DETROIT - If you’ve ever had to stand in one of those looong lines to get into Comerica Park, you might have wanted to give the gate attendant the finger.
Well, now you can. Sort of.
The Detroit Tigers are trying out a new system that identifies you by your fingerprints, similar to the newest smartphones, to lessen the time it takes to get through security.
The Detroit stadium is among the first nationwide to get biometric readers. The Tigers debuted the system Monday at Gate A — the main gate across from the Fox Theatre.
"Once you are in the system, so to speak, you have the ability to enter different venues and perform different transactions," said Ed O'Brien, the head of sports business development at New York-based Clear, which installed the system. "The way we view our long-term sports fan experience is, you'd never have to carry a wallet again."
To use the biometric system, you must register your fingerprints, which is free. Registration at Comerica was offered Monday and will be available at a kiosk on game days. To sign up, which takes about five minutes, you'll need your ID and to correctly answer a series of questions, the company said. You then scan all 10 fingers.
Once your information is in the system, you are good to go, and you never have to register again.
In addition, the ballpark will allow registered users to bring one adult with a ticket and an unlimited number of unregistered children with tickets through the line with them.
The purpose of the exceptions, O'Brien said, is to benefit season-ticket holders and families. As more ticket holders register, the company plans to add more special entrance lanes. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
Beyond stadium entry, Clear envisions a world in which people use their fingertips — and eyes — to buy concessions, enter offices and perhaps even start their cars.
In addition to baseball, O'Brien said the company is in conversations with other professional sports arenas in Detroit — Ford Field and Little Caesars Arena — to add the technology.
The biometric reader at Comerica is similar to what Clear uses with the Transportation Security Administration and has installed at airports, including Detroit Metro, to get flyers through security faster.
Clear has biometric scanners at 30 major airports, including those in Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington.
A privately held company that started in 2010, Clear also has technology that scans eyes.
“Detroit is an amazing sports town with a loyal fan base,” said Caryn Seidman-Becker, Clear's CEO who also is a University of Michigan graduate. “In addition to expanding the network of venues where Clear is available, we are also working on applications for biometrics that extend beyond security to other uses inside the venue that will continue to transform the game day experience."
To boost attendance at games — and in some places, blunt declines in ticket sales — sports franchises have been trying to eliminate issues that fans complain about, such as waiting in long lines to get to their seats.
The Detroit Lions, for instance, begin offering Flash Seats, which eliminates paper tickets. To get into Ford Field, fans could flash — or swipe — their mobile apps, credit cards or driver's licenses over a scanner.
The biometric readers at Comerica take the technology to another level.
“As we continue to identify opportunities to enhance the game-day experience, Clear provides us with an enhancement whereas patrons can enter Comerica Park in a quicker and convenient manner, without compromising their safety and security,” Mike Healy, the Tigers' vice president of ballpark operations, said. “The implementation of Clear’s platform speaks to our ongoing technological initiatives to provide a world-class entertainment experience for our patrons.”
Comerica is the seventh sports stadium where Clear has installed the technology. The others are Coors Field in Denver, Marlins Park and AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, AT&T Park in San Francisco, and Yankee Stadium and Citi Field in New York.
O'Brien would not say what percentage of game-goers are registered, but it is only a fraction of all ticket holders. Nationwide, Clear says it has 1 million registered users between stadiums and airports.
To reassure customers who are concerned about privacy, the company said it does not sell or release biometric data to other groups.
Flyers who are already registered with Clear at airports — a $15-a-month service — do not need to register a second time to get into sports arenas, the company said.
"Everyone wants to enhance the game-day experience and make it easier, more enjoyable to come to the park," O'Brien said. "We're, obviously, starting at the gate, but once we get that down, we can expand to other touch points."
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