FOXBORO (CBS) – While the NFL struggles with player controversies, some stadiums are also struggling to keep attendance from dropping. Many owners are turning to high tech offerings to entice the football fan.
A Chicago based survey called “Ranking the NFL Stadium Experiences” puts Gillette Stadium at number nine. Preston McClellan, the Marketing Coordinator at Navigate Research and a Sporting News freelance contributor, compiled the list.
“I think that a lot of NFL teams are realizing that they need to become an entertainment destination and not just a place to watch a game, and that’s especially true as younger people are becoming older and having buying power, like myself. I am only 24 and I definitely prefer having a very connected experience when I’m at a game. I’m not there to just watch the game,” McClellan explained.
McClellan pointed out the amount of down time in a football game, addressing that the actual amount of time for when a ball is snapped and in play in 11 minutes, but that a typical game last three and a half hours.
“There is a lot of filler time that needs to be filled in with fun activities and things to keep fans interested,” he said.
“We usually get bored after the half and we have to find ways to entertain the kids,” said Mark Gallboys of Sharon, who took his 8 and 6 year old sons to Sunday’s Gillette home opener.
Season ticket holder Michael Economou of North Smithfield, Rhode Island has issues with all of the penalties that draw out games. His wife, Linda, says she doesn’t mind the wait.
“The downtime allows you to go and get some munchies, and talk to some friends,” she explained.
There are also fans who never even venture inside the stadium. Bob Bryan of Chester, New Hampshire watches the entire game on a 42 inch plasma television that is set up on a hydraulic lift inside his Hummer, making sure his equipment is set up in a nearby parking lot adjacent to Gillette.
At Sunday’s home opener, Bryan was serving lobster ravioli, prime rib and spiral ham under a huge white tent.
“To be honest with you, this is a better seat,” Bryan said. “We know when to watch the TV and when not to because of the 10 second delay. We know when someone boos or it’s something good; we know what’s going to happen on TV before we get there.”
Jim Nolan, Senior VP of Finance Administration and Operations recognizes that fans now expect data as well. Gillette was one of the first stadiums to install Wi-Fi and you can access the in-stadium app “Patriots Game Day Live”.
“We have specific camera angles that are our own production team that you can’t get at home. You can watch every replay. You can backtrack and watch every play over the course of the game. We have some unique things, too. We have a bathroom app so you can see how long the line is. We also have traffic and weather updates that go out over it,” Nolan said of the app.
He added that the most enticing option is the NFL Red Zone, which provides up to the minute key plays and touchdowns in all games.
Gillette has updated its video boards ahead of schedule and changes are coming to some of the communal areas too.
Nolan explained, “We have the bridge that connects one side of the stadium to the other, so we’re going to expand that bridge and we’re going to make it five times as big, which will not only address fans coming from east to west and vice versa in a seamless way, but also create a gathering space for fans who want to take their photo with the Stadium in the background, or stand with friends who they don’t sit next to and watch the game.”
He says these changes are part of a continual process at all levels so fans want to come back and enjoy the Patriots in all sorts of different ways. He adds that watching a winning team is a huge factor, too.
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