Many attending their maiden Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis will be, needless to say, a bit confused.
Everything — from getting to the stadium and finding seat locations to ordering food and scouting out the best bathrooms — will be new and different. And the venue’s humongous size is sure to intimidate some visitors at first.
These fans will, thank heavens, have help. And it will be right on their phone screens, via an app the Vikings are making available in time for that first kickoff.
The app, essentially a replacement for the Viking’s current mobile app, is being coded by a Silicon Valley tech company, VenueNext, that has worked with other pro-sports teams.
The app will do quite a lot.
It will guide fans to the venue regardless of whether they’re using public transport or availing themselves of stadium parking lots. It will even make note of exactly where they parked.
It will grant fans entry to the facility via 150 kiosks scattered throughout the venue. A fan would pull up a code on his or her phone screen, have a kiosk (nicknamed Kezar) scan it and walk right in.
It will guide fans to their seats using turn-by-turn navigation similar to Google Maps.
It will let fans request food, drink and souvenirs at their seats and have such purchases brought to them. Or, if they prefer, they will place orders for fast pickup at a favorite concession.
It will save fans the hassle of searching for bathrooms that aren’t packed. The app will tell them — via red, yellow and green dots — which lavatories have longer, medium or shorter lines.
Perhaps best of all, this app will keep the fans on top of the latest gridiron action with instant-replay video that will provide multiple vantage points. Heck, they will even be able to catch live streams of NFL games elsewhere.
The app will be backed up with a lot of stadium tech that will, the Vikings are promising, make the fans’ smartphone use effortless.
This tech includes an array of 1,300 Wi-Fi access points mounted on ceilings, walls, even handrails.
This super Wi-Fi network will be so robust “all 66,000 fans in the stadium could theoretically jump on the Wi-Fi” at the same time, said John Penhollow, vice president of corporate and technology partnerships for Minnesota Vikings Football LLC.
Verizon, meanwhile, is installing souped-up cellular equipment for use by all wireless carriers to ensure full bars (or close to it) at all times, Penhollow said.
In addition, the stadium will be littered with about 2,000 wireless “beacons” that will have one job: pinpoint the app users’ locations all times. This is a crucial bit of data that makes most of the app’s features possible.
It will also give the Vikings insight into what specific visitors like, so that they can feed each such individual offers that are alluring.
VenueNext, the company making the Vikings’ app, initially was a part of the San Francisco 49ers as that team launched its all-new Levi’s Stadium in 2014.
“We wanted the stadium to be technologically advanced in order to improve the fan experience,” VenueNext chief executive John Paul said.
But the features the 49ers wanted weren’t readily available, Paul said, and so the organization made them in-house. This included an app comparable to the one now being created for the Vikings.
Paul and his team later branched off as a separate company, and now their clientele includes the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Yankees and the Orlando Magic.
Penhollow said the Vikings were in talks with VenueNext for about two years and, at one point, flew out to Santa Clara, Calif., to take in a 49ers game at Levi’s Stadium.
As they were sitting in the stands, Penhollow recalled, they pulled up VenueNext’s app, “and tried to break it, but everything worked great.”