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Oak View Group
disrupts venue
industry to deliver
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experiences

  • Introduction

  • Large sporting and concert facilities that are home to major sport franchises don't run themselves. Keeping fans happy at games and remaining a venue of choice for big music acts and other live events takes hard work from companies like Oak View Group and its facilities division.

    As a full-service venue management and event programming company, Oak View Group's goal is to provide services, resources and expertise designed to deliver a unique guest experience for venue attendees. Creating these experiences sometimes means guiding major upgrades and renovations for large and sometimes historic venues to enable innovation with the latest technology, including 5G solutions and interactive mobile apps.

    Steve Collins, Oak View Group's President of Global Venue Development and Special Projects, describes their unique approach. "There are many different ways that owners tackle how these buildings get built, and in many cases, the owner is okay with elements like distributed antenna systems, converged network systems, WiFi, Voice and Data Systems, and I could go on, but when these experiential elements get turned over to the general contractor, there's a loss of control there."

    While owners appreciate these fan experience systems, Collins observes that there's always a danger of vendor fragmentation that results in a loss of control over the overall vision for the project. That's where Oak View Group makes a big difference, as a one-stop-shop for these varying systems. Owners can work with just Oak View Group and keep their vision for a project intact.

    "We like to think of ourselves—when it comes to the design—as a company who can control that experience, and I think you can see it in a lot of different buildings because every one of these buildings has a different personality. We develop direct relationships with partners for those elements that touch the customer experience, and ensure they work directly for the owner. So we work directly with the owner on what are the owner's ultimate goals for this building, and that conversation continues throughout the whole process. It's unique that Oak View Group is taking that relationship and making it a direct one, both through design and implementation," he said.

    To help with these massive transformations, Oak View Group partnered with Verizon to build, rebuild and/or redevelop several world-class arenas, including the Climate Pledge Arena, UBS Arena, Moody Center Arena and Coachella Valley Arena.

    These arena transformation projects had a lot in common. They involved integrating different wireless technologies with the help of Verizon and navigating the challenges of the pandemic and each venue's unique requirements.

  • Beginning quotation mark  We like to think of ourselves—when it comes to the design—as a company who can control that experience, and I think you can see it in a lot of different buildings because every one of these buildings has a different personality.”

    Steve Collins, President of Global Venue Development & Special Projects, Oak View Group

  • Every live event requires strong connectivity

  • The main attraction, be it a sporting event or a concert, is often the biggest part of the experience when going to a live venue. But attendees have expectations beyond being entertained by the action on the field or stage. The experience also includes showing their tickets to gain admission, finding their seats, buying food and merchandise, and even sharing their experiences on social media. Fans may even be able to use a purpose-built app associated with the event.

    Everything that happens at a major event relies on data and connectivity, whether it's handheld ticketing devices, point-of-sale (PoS) devices or Wi-Fi hotspots. The latter allows attendees to connect, and merchants, concession stands and back-office operations may also use them to enable a streamlined experience for all attendees. Oak View Group is a key partner in enabling every interaction at the venues it works with, both during the event and leading up to it.

    With the ultimate goal of immersing fans in a next-level experience during every visit, Oak View Group relies on Verizon to help implement an infrastructure that supports optimal data transmission for all building systems, tenants and attendees.

  • Unique challenges during unprecedented times

    The collaboration between Oak View Group and Verizon to develop and transform Climate Pledge Arena, UBS Arena and Moody Center Arena all had one factor in common: navigating through a pandemic.

    Over the past two years, the pandemic has impacted how these facilities operated, as well as the design, construction and procurement of materials. This was especially significant when redeveloping a historic facility in Seattle with a $1 billion-plus budget.

    "That was probably one of our biggest challenges that cuts across all of these buildings. We were actually offline—nobody working, nobody picking up a tool for six weeks," said Collins. The pandemic not only put pressure on the workflow that's typical of any modern construction project, but it also meant ventilating and sanitizing the venues to make sure people were safe.

  • A historic challenge

    Beyond these challenges, each venue had unique requirements, especially the transformation of the old KeyArena into the Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, which had the added challenge of installing state-of-the-art technology infrastructure without disrupting the building's historic exterior—all within a tight timeline. Oak View Group began a technological collaboration with Verizon to install the latest—and future-proof—technology infrastructure, without disrupting the building's historic façade.

    Collins noted that renderings of the Climate Pledge Arena often include the equally iconic Space Needle in the background. "The look and feel of the exterior of that building is very iconic. When you come up to that building now, you're basically looking at the same building exterior as it existed when it was first built. There was a lot of creative engineering to keep that historic exterior structure intact," Collins continued. Others bidding on the project proposed demolishing the old building entirely, but Oak View Group's proposal was to keep its original iconic roof and glass façade.

    The only significant visible change to the building's layout was to accommodate fans with a bigger entrance—this took the form of a glass atrium that extends outward. To accomplish this transformation, there was a great deal of demolition to update and rebuild the inside, while carefully maintaining the building's historical components.

  • Beginning quotation mark   The most important thing for us, as we're building out these critical systems on the network and cellular side and as we start to hone in on what the rest of the technology platform looks like, is that the design is flexible and adaptable to be able to accept many of those things that come a little later in the project.”

    Steve Collins, President of Global Venue Development & Special Projects, Oak View Group

  • Climate Pledge Arena hosting an ice hockey game
    • The latest innovations for a historic building

    • In Seattle, Oak View Group went to work creating the ultimate arena experience that is home to two major sports franchises, and the host to the best in live music and entertainment. The transformed Climate Pledge Arena boasts 5G Ultra Wideband (UWB) in its bowl sections and 5G throughout the venue. It also harnesses Verizon's Distributed Antenna System (DAS) and Converged Network Services (CNS) to provide voice, data, security and Wi-Fi services. The DAS is "neutral" in that it easily accommodates other mobile communications providers on the system—ensuring true interoperability.

      Everything in this historic yet modern facility leverages connectivity and the latest technology—even the beer machines leverage the network and work with QR codes. Other innovative aspects of the facility include a living wall, a video wall, a rainforest wall and cashier-less scanners—it lives up to its name by being the greenest arena on the West Coast, right down to its ability to freeze rainwater to make the ice for hockey games.

      All this is supported through Verizon's Wi-Fi and local area network (LAN) that leverages Cisco equipment, licenses and support. Moreover, these innovative offerings are implemented with the help of Verizon's professional services, all with consideration for historical artifacts, including the original rooftop, which is part of the National Register of Historic Places.

      Oak View Group Facilities had a deadline to complete infrastructure upgrades, too—the venue was slated to reopen in late summer 2021. Meeting these deadlines meant that Oak View Group had to take a systematic approach.

      "From an Oak View Group perspective, we're not starting off the project thinking we'll put technology in for technology's sake, and we want to make sure that we're putting in the best technology that gives us the greatest impact to our customers and clients, and also the greatest opportunity to leverage our investments. A lot of those decisions don't come until later. But foundationally, the most important thing for us, as we're building out these critical systems on the network and cellular side and as we start to hone in on what the rest of the technology platform looks like, is that the design is flexible and adaptable to be able to accept many of those things that come a little later in the project," said Collins.

      Beginning quotation mark  This is really the foundational element for technology in the building, as everything is going to run through these systems, so we have to make sure that we get that right, because if we get that right, the sky is the limit for connecting other technologies that are coming down the road a year or two after.”

      —Steve Collins, President of Global Venue Development & Special Projects, Oak View Group


      Just as Oak View Group's work didn't end with building construction deadlines, Verizon's work didn't end there either. The professional services team set up a temporary Network Operations Center to monitor the first dozen hockey games and concerts, along with a help desk operation to support LAN, wide-area network (WAN), firewall, Wi-Fi, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), building systems and tenant setup and start-up issues.

      The irony of Climate Pledge Arena being a historic site was that it would be a test site for autonomous check out technology, which allows patrons to walk out with their purchases without having to pay—that's done automatically. "Seattle was the test market for us," said Collins. "There's a lot of moving pieces." The lessons from the rollout at this venue would be applied to the UBS Arena deployment, which had its own unique characteristics.

    • Beginning quotation mark   From an Oak View Group perspective, we're not starting off the project thinking we'll put technology in for technology's sake, and we want to make sure that we're putting in the best technology that gives us the greatest impact to our customers and clients.”

      Steve Collins, President of Global Venue Development & Special Projects, Oak View Group

  • Aerial view of the UBS Arena exterior
    • UBS Arena builds on the innovative infrastructure of Climate Pledge Arena

    • After testing the Just Walk Out technology in Seattle, it was added to the development of UBS Arena but with different architectural constraints. The Climate Pledge Arena project needed to retain the roof and the façade but could build completely new infrastructure on the inside. The UBS Arena project had to accommodate any new technology without reworking the structure of the building.

      Those weren't the only differences that had to be taken into consideration. Other differences between the venues included the smartphone app, the layout of each building and how merchandising is handled. This meant that Verizon's expertise was critical in accommodating all the discrepancies. "Seattle is almost all underground. UBS is almost all aboveground," Collins noted, which changes how to get signals to patrons in various areas of the building.

      Like Climate Pledge Arena, UBS Arena had a set deadline before hockey season started. Much of the arena's networking infrastructure is similar to the Seattle arena as well, including 5G UWB in its bowl sections, 5G throughout the venue, Verizon's mobile provider-neutral DAS, and CNS support for voice, data, security and Wi-Fi services, including wireless PoS. To promote successes from the grand opening, Verizon provided a Network Operating Center to support the venue's various inaugural events.

      All this infrastructure supports BlueJeans by Verizon video conferencing capabilities to enable watch parties as part of the HOMEICE Experience platform within the UBS Arena mobile app. Leveraging the BlueJeans software development kit (SDK), the new BlueJeans Meetings capability for HOMEICE is available as an in-app "second screen" experience for fans looking to connect with their friends live over video during their favorite team's games. Verizon's design and deployment services allowed Oak View Group to enable a reliable user experience optimized for fans' devices.

      The pandemic particularly impacted the UBS project because construction was shut down completely for six weeks. However, thanks to the direct relationship with Verizon, Oak View Group was able to make up lost ground. "We can't operate the building without the network being lit up—so many systems depend on it," Collins said. Verizon was instrumental in problem-solving and figuring out what needed to be brought online for construction to move forward, whether it was building management systems or other factors to come on board later. Verizon established a temporary network for building systems during the construction phase.

      Whether it's a new build or a redevelopment of an existing venue, there's some foundational thinking at play to anticipate potential additions down the road while considering the individual characteristics of the building. "Once decisions are made about how we're going to do this, they may be permanent. There's some pressure to make sure the foundation is right, even when you're doing a new build," Collins continued.

    • Accommodating diverse experiences at Moody Center Arena requires a flexible foundation

      Moody Center Arena shares many characteristics with Climate Pledge Arena and UBS Arena. But it's the first venue to be served by Oak View Group's food and beverage division—Oak View Group Hospitality—which benefits from mobile PoS.

      Moreover, while all three venues host many different events, Moody Center Arena has the most varied. With more than 15,000 seats, it hosts more than 150 nights a year of unique entertainment, including the best and biggest names in the music industry, UT women's and men's basketball games, family shows, and other sporting and local events. Most notably, Austin-based Academy Award-winner Matthew McConaughey acts as the "Minister of Culture" for the venue, ensuring Longhorn and Austin cultures are properly represented. It creates a fan experience that's authentic to Austin and unlike any other venue in the country.

      This array of events emphasized the need to implement a strong yet flexible foundation to support all fan experiences equally. "One of the toughest things we grapple with from a technology perspective is the variety of events that have different needs," said Collins. A concert may have 2,000 people on the floor while the bulk of the audience is seated. "You need to make sure that the experience for those 2,000 people on the floor is the same as those seated in the lower tier or the upper tier," he explained. But that setup could be for a single night and then be replaced with a sporting event the next, where a key consideration is feeding different scoreboards and making sure every attendee can see one. "Any of those different configurations require a lot of thought, upfront design and collaboration as we change from event to event, since they physically change the dynamics of the building," Collins said.

      Every patron needs to be accommodated equally—no event should have a better or lesser experience, he said. That's where interoperability and flexibility of technology play a key role, as does a partner like Verizon, which can consult and help plan what's needed to enhance the fan experience at a world-class venue.

    • A converged network supports flexibility and security

      A key benefit of Oak View Group partnering with Verizon on all of these major projects was that Verizon had the opportunity to learn lessons from each project. It could then apply those lessons to the next one, rather than Oak View Group working with a different provider and running into the same challenges each time. Verizon was also able to meet each requirement without running the risk of creating siloed systems.

      Climate Pledge Arena, UBS Arena and Moody Center Arena all run on Verizon CNS, so all stakeholders are served by the same infrastructure—tenants, vendors, patrons and owners, including back-office operations. That means elements of the building management system, such as heating, ventilating, air conditioning, elevators, lighting controls and cameras, run on the same Verizon network as the merchant services, ticketing and vendors, including major sports team stores—essentially all PoS. This convergence is critical to a foundation that can be expanded upon in case new functionality is required even years after the initial construction and redevelopment is completed. Deciding to add the Just Walk Out technology to UBS Arena is a great example of having the flexibility to add something down the road.

      Using the same network for everything means security is of paramount concern, so Verizon's expertise in Payment Card Industry (PCI) security and compliance played a key role in the network architecture of each venue. Verizon conducted a PCI assessment of the converged network at each arena, and Oak View Group provided a list of tenants to help Verizon help determine PCI compliance. Verizon also added security requirements for the vendors, and monitors any technology vendors install to help determine PCI compliance. Verizon also implemented a firewall-based cyber defense with user authentication at both Climate Pledge Arena and UBS Arena.

      For Oak View Group, having a partner that's interacting with venue owners both from a cellular and Wi-Fi perspective allows it to be efficient with how it builds and operates systems. "We don't have fragmented or siloed discussions taking place where somebody is off doing the DAS design, and somebody's off doing the network design," said Collins. It also means Oak View Group can select best-in-class equipment to make sure it has the best foundation as well as the best systems layered on top, whether working on solutions to building management or PoS. "If the foundational elements carrying all of this information and talking to all of these systems are not adaptable, flexible and reliable, everything breaks down," Collins said.

      Not having that adaptability and reliability means that everyone's experience breaks down—the team that's playing on the ice, the broadcasters covering the musicians performing on stage, the concession and merchandise vendors, and the ticket holder.

      Beginning quotation mark  We want to be able to go out and pick best in class technology at the time, get as close as we can to the opening to make sure that we're getting the latest and the greatest, and not have the network designed or implemented in a way that in any way limits us on that customer experience.”

      —Steve Collins, President of Global Venue Development & Special Projects, Oak View Group


      Verizon's flexibility in new construction projects operated as a shock absorber for construction delays. Collins noted that each venue project Oak View Group worked on with Verizon was a true collaboration, whether it was rolling out 5G or building out networks in three of the business's buildings with the widest variety of events. "The collaboration between Verizon and Oak View Group made us both better," he said.

    • Beginning quotation mark  The collaboration between Verizon and Oak View Group made us both better.”

      Steve Collins, President of Global Venue Development & Special Projects, Oak View Group

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