"We are continually looking for ways to make our fans' home-game experience at M&T Bank Stadium the best in all of professional sports," Ravens president Dick Cass said.
Enhancements for the 2015 season, which starts with the first preseason game against the New Orleans Saints next Thursday (Aug. 13), include a $6.5 million investment in an expansive Wi-Fi system, a revolutionary 3-D video system called freeD that shows replays from every possible angle, and new safety measures to ease fans' entry into the stadium and ensure top-of-the-line security for everyone at M&T Bank Stadium.
"Our good fortune is that every game in Ravens history has sold out, and we want to make sure that continues. We compete for families' entertainment dollars, and that includes watching our games from the comfort of homes," Cass explained. "Along with a consistent winning team, we must continue to give fans reasons to come to our home games. These improvements extend our efforts to make Ravens games the best."
With increased use of mobile devices – most importantly smartphones – fans demand stronger, faster and free Wi-Fi at stadium events. "We've done a lot of research in this area and believe we've found the best service for our fans," Roy Sommerhof, the Ravens' senior vice president of stadium operations, said about a partnership with Extreme Networks, Inc. and PCM Inc. Almost 800 access points and antennas, both outside and inside M&T Bank Stadium, have been added to better serve Ravens fans.
This Wi-Fi project includes a full wired, wireless and management software networking solution from Extreme Networks and a data center built by PCM. (PCM designed the Wi-Fi coverage model.) The new Wi-Fi at M&T Bank Stadium is presented by Verizon.
"Fans use mobile devices as a regular part of their lives. They go to our website for updates, look for videos and play fantasy football. They want the NFL RedZone and more statistics. They want to use their social channels, take pictures and video and let their friends know what they are experiencing. It's part of a great gameday experience. We recognize that," Cass added.
Sommerhof added that Wi-Fi coaches, who will be clearly identified, have been hired to roam the stadium, helping fans connect to and receive the maximum usage from the new system.
"Our fans are becoming more and more sophisticated, seeking added insights into our games. With freeD, a company that has created novel viewing experiences, we will have that at M&T Bank Stadium," Cass noted. The technology developed by freeD will give Ravens fans unique views of plays by creating a virtual three-dimensional model of the football action. "There's a 'wow' factor with this technology, and fans will be talking about it," Jay O'Brien, the Ravens' director of broadcasting and gameday productions, said.* *
ENHANCED SAFETY MEASURES
Metal detectors, common in airports and many sporting venues (including Oriole Park), will be added to most entry points at M&T Bank Stadium this season, with the remainder to be installed in 2016. Along with these detectors, 55 new security cameras have been added to the stadium.
"Our goal is to have quick, easy access for the fans coming to M&T Bank Stadium. These detectors will assist that process," Sommerhof said. "Adding the cameras helps us ensure that all fans can have a great experience when they come to a Ravens' game. Those fans acting irresponsibly will be identified, and security will handle."
Sommerhof also noted that, like all NFL teams, fans can enter the stadium with clear plastic, one-gallon bags to hold belongings. (Bags cannot exceed 12"x6"x12". Small clutch bags, approximately the size of a hand, can also be carried into the stadium.) If fans do not have any hand-held items, there are express lanes for even quicker entry. "It's all about getting our fans into the stadium quickly in the safest environment," Sommerhof added.
Note: Fans can bring food into the stadium if it is carried in a clear Ziploc-style bag no larger than a one- gallon container. (Aramark, the food services provider at M&T Bank Stadium, is also offering vegan and vegetarian fare in 2015.)
TRANSPORTATION AND PARKING
Fans are reminded they can attend Ravens games through "Ravens Ride," buses with departures from Carney, Jessup, South West and White Marsh Park and Rides, Manchester, Westminster and Owings Mills. Season passes are available at discounted rates. Buses depart three-and-a-half hours before kickoff. More information can be found at www.ravensride.com.
While the nearly 5,000 parking spaces at Camden Yards are sold out, Raven fans can also find close stadium parking through Parking Panda: www.parkingpanda.com.
The Ravens invested in hospitality training for over 1,000 Ravens gameday workers this offseason. Among those trained were Wi-Fi coaches, guest services staff (ushers, security, etc.) from a variety of companies that serve fans, plus Ravens ticket office, marketing, club and suite level employees.