Fans will be the driving force behind the future transformation of stadiums. Add-on services, security, and tailored experiences will be of vital importance to attract these fans. We will discuss 10 important features of what future stadiums will look like.
Old stadiums were creating great fan experiences
Close your eyes and imagine yourself living two thousand years ago in ancient Rome. You have decided to have some fun and are in the stands of the Colosseum right now! You are there with your buddies and are thoroughly enjoying the gladiator games. There is plenty of food nearby in the corridors. You notice that there are people making bets and that you can participate in lotteries and sweepstakes. In the background you hear the noise of the crowd that is cheering and roaring. You realise that you are utterly enjoying this great experience!
New stadiums are not that different….
Let’s wharp ourselves back to the present now. Again you are present in a stadium. What has changed from the past? Nothing really, except for gladiators no longer killing each other in the arena. For the remainder the purpose of a stadium remains the same. It is ‘hosting a group of connected people that want to have a great time’. Great experiences is still what a stadium has to deliver. But, wait a minute! What about the look and feel of the stadium? Yes, of course you are right! The stadium of today is more modern as demands of us consumers have changed big time.
“Our requirements in what makes a great stadium experience have radically changed. Stadiums have to continuously adjust and innovate to deliver! ”Jan Kees Mons
These demands will further evolve in the future, particularly on the back of changing demographics, new technology and disruption of traditional business models.
Investments are ever increasing
The drive towards innovation has increased the level of investments in stadiums. The number of EUR 1bln plus stadiums is ever increasing as you can see in the table below. This trend is unlikely to reverse anytime soon. You know what the world’s most expensive stadium is? It is the SoFi stadium in Inglewood, California. You want to know the total investment for this structure? An astonishing USD 5.5 bln!
Having been active in the banking business, the first question popping up is obvious! How in the hell can such a structure generate sufficient returns? Yes, SoFi has been paying USD 600 mln for bragging rights by naming the thing. Also the Rams pay a substantial amount to play in this super modern stadium, but that far from covers the bill. Rest assured, the math has been done! The answer to this question is simple. It can be found in the fan. The fan is interested in experiences and is willing to pay a price for it! Not for the entrance ticket, but for the add-on services and experiences. See also my blog on future fanengagement, where I elaborate on this.
Also interesting to read: 10 striking predictions about the future of sports
Top 10 features of future stadiums
So you may wonder what the future stadiums will look like? Here are ten features that will enhance the experience of fans.
1. Future stadiums will become technological fortresses
Connectivity and interactivity, those are the buzzwords here. New generations think, sleep and eat it! Without state-of-the-art technology, no deal and no experience! It means future stadiums cannot do without it. In the newbuild Tottenham stadium in London, 1200 kilometres of cable is being used. This means an astonishing 20 metres per seat! No doubt with 5G around the corner, newly build future stadiums will facilitate for technology changes.
So what technologies should you think of? Well, do you have a minute? Think of Augmented and Virtual Reality, think of drone technology, Artificial Intelligence, robots, think of sensor technology, 4 D cameras etc. Holographic technology will also play an important role as with this technology you will be able to enjoy away games of your team in your own stadium. Holographic events will be no exception in the future. Conclusion, without technology, future stadiums will not win the war! It means a large part of investments will go to building a solid technological infrastructure.
Also interesting to read: 10 great technologies that will change sports
2. Future stadiums: lower seating capacity but increased flexibility
One of the main adjustments that can be expected is that seating capacity in both existing and future stadiums is likely to be downsized. The current Covid 19 crisis might even be a catalyst that will accelerate this downsizing trend. The list of clubs and stadium which have started reducing seating capacity, is already substantial. What to think of the Texas Rangers, the Atlanta Falcons, the Marlins etc? You might wonder why? Well, it is simple. It is fundamentals! Basically, it has everything to do with the fan!
As said the requiements of the fan are changing. First of all the fan wants to be connected! Future technology will offer him a wide array of new alternatives to watch a game, whether it is in Virtual Reality at home or at a different location. A stadium hence has to offer something special in order to go there. Secondly the modern fan wants more than just a seat. He wants to be able to move around and enjoy different experiences. It means that more space needs to be reserved for such services. Hence, stadiums will not become smaller but will host fewer guests that will enjoy more space.
In fact stadiums are likely to alter their strategy from a high volume/low margin policy(many fans paying for a ticket and some food and beverage) to a low volume/high margin one (fewer fans spending more money on alternative activities and services in the stadium). Adding the fact that alternative revenue streams can also be tapped outside the stadium both on gameday as on other days, it becomes a no brainer. The strategy is likely to change towards spending more bucks and keeping the customer longer on the premises. It’s all about engagement here! Future fans only will come to stadiums if they can get offered someting extra.
The main challenge here will be to find the optimum mix between number of spectators and services and space. This may differ per event and hence in order to find the right mix, expect stadiums to become more flexible where capacity and services are concerned.
3. Future stadiums will increasingly become multipurpose structures
With investments in current and future stadiums skyrocketing and fan requirements ever evolving, it still will be a challenge to generate sufficient financial returns. In order to realize this, utilisation levels should increase. It means returns per square meter have to increase. As the number of events has its limits, it should therefore be no surprise that stadiums will become multipurpose. For example, parking lots can be used during the week for city commuters. Office space can be rented within the stadium and museums and fairs on the stadium grounds can be visited all week long. Future stadiums will likely become small entertainment cities where people gather and meet and have a good time
4. Future stadiums will deliver convenience all the way
The present fan wants convenience from beginning to the end! From ordering his ticket till arriving home after visiting the game. Expect blockchain ticketing to come to the fore rather sooner than later. This allows for fraud to be expelled and dynamic demand based pricing models. Imagine yourself on your way to the stadium in a self driving car with a smart navigation system. Software will take care that there will be no traffic jams. Your car will drop you near the entrance of the stadium and park automatically somewhere in the neighborhood. That should make your traveling experience an awful lot more pleasant to start with!
Obviously when entering the stadium there will be no queuing because there is ticketless entry due to new technologies such as facial recognition. Smart flags and holographic images, guides and robots, will provide you with the latest information on the game, whilst on the concourse there is plenty of entertainment to enjoy. Once in the stadium you will be able to order your food and beverages and merchandise from your (heated) seat, which by the way is equipped with a USB port. Just moments later your order will be delivered at your seat. That’s what I call convenience!
5. Security in future stadiums is key
Fans do want to feel safe and not worry about terrorist threats or hooligans. If they feel safe, they will stay longer at the venue and spend more money. Facial recognition, smart blockchain ticketing and crowd control systems are just a few examples of how fans might feel safer in the future.
Also interesting to read: How will the blockchain impact sports
6. Sustainability and no footprint
Generations Z and Alpha do not require anything less. They are environment addicts and much more concerned with the future of the planet than older generations are. Not surprisingly, they recognise the threat to their future existence. It means future stadiums should leave no footprint and should generate their own energy to start with. It’s not an option, it’s a must! Water should be re-used, rubbish recycled etc. Once a stadium becomes obsolete, the building materials should either be recycled or used in a different way. You can read an awful lot more on this in my blogpost Sports going green
7. Future stadiums are providers of experiences
Attendances are declining in many sports. Why should you visit a game if you can have the same experience with a virtual reality set at home with a couple of friends? Mind you, it is already there! Stadiums hence need to offer something special, something the fan cannot experience at home. Think about in-stadium exclusive social networking platforms, sweepstakes, live betting, holographic experiences with your favourite players, skywalks. Or what about augmented reality delivering you stats and add-on info on the game or a player? Or offering you great game-related interactive screenshots of yourself! Think about sensors, the possibilities are endless.
Also interesting to read: 10 awesome ways to raise stadium fan experience and engagement in the future
8. Future stadiums will become social meeting places
Experiences are not the only reasons for new generations to go to a stadium. If there is one thing which is important to them, it is the chilling together with friends factor. GenZ and GenAlpha don’t want anything less. They want to meet with their buddies and relax. Stadiums need to be creative in how to facilitate for this trend. Think about special seats, more gathering places, more block seating, hospitality seats etc.
Also interesting to read: How GenZ will change the world of sports
9. Future stadiums will become ‘datatemples’
One of the ways stadiums and club owners will be able to earn back some of their investments will be data-gathering. Who is in the stands and what does that fan need? By doing this, the stadium can become a major content and data provider to many commercial parties. Data will be the new gold for stadium owners!
10. Artificial Intelligence will alter stadiums into deep learning organic creatures
With future stadiums equipped with state-of-the-art technology Artificial Intelligence will kick in and change stadiums into small deep learning cities! This will improve and optimise the (tailor-made) experience of each fan within the stadium. This will tell what the optimum seating capacity and service requirement will be for a certain event.
Ok, by now, you may realise that the future stadiums will look a lot different from the ones you are visiting now. These 10 features are the main ones as far as I am concerned but I am sure I have overlooked one or two. Moreover, it is quite likely that reality will be much different, particulalry as Covid 19 will result in many disruptions going forward. I would love to hear your opinion on how future stadiums might look like. So feel free to drop a comment so we can fill in number 11 (and 12). Thanks!