Smart Buildings

4 Things Today's Stadiums Need to Support Emerging Technology

Christine Williamson
New or upgraded sports stadiums often have big goals in mind when they break ground. 


Some want to use emerging and never-before-seen technology to support one-of-a-kind, immersive fan experiences that lure people from their homes and into live environments. Others want to increase seating capacity and revenue opportunities. Sometimes they want to create a destination or district to reshape commercial activity. And, in some cases, they want to achieve all these objectives—and more.


At the heart of these goals is often one thing: leading-edge technology. Some of the innovation is visible, such as LED feature walls, roof projection and huge video boards, while other technology stays behind the scenes, like wireless access points, production facilities and mass notification.


To support this leading-edge technology, stadiums also need high-performance cable and connectivity infrastructure, too.


Based on a recent project we completed for the largest NFL stadium ever built, we created a list of four things new stadiums will require if they want to boost engagement and experiences.


1. Infrastructure for a Distributed Antenna System and Wi-Fi 6


Although they serve very different purposes, the technologies inside and around a new stadium still have one thing in common: They need reliable, high-performance cables and connectors to make sure they’re connected to the stadium network and to each other. Without these reliable connections, the displays, videoboards, ticketing system and mass notification system would have no information to share with fans.


As part of stadium construction and upgrades, many are adding or updating distributed antenna systems (DASs) to bring dependable cellular coverage indoors for strong signals and fast download and upload speeds.


For one NFL stadium, Belden recently created a meet-me room with massive amounts of OSP fiber where carriers connect to one another and pick up traffic from inside the stadium. In this space, 11,000 strands of Belden fiber were deployed, along with Fusion Splice-On Connectors that combine the benefits of fusion splicing with the simplicity of field-installable connectors to improve installation performance and reliability over mechanical splice connectors.


Wi-Fi 6 networks are also on the rise in stadiums. They provide up to four times more bandwidth than previous-generation Wi-Fi standards and enable applications like 4K video streaming, virtual reality and augmented reality on wireless devices without any delays or buffering. The introduction of Wi-Fi 6 also leads to higher in-venue purchases for owners because fans can stay connected to the network.


2. Products for Unique Installation Challenges


Because many never-before-seen technologies and applications are being rolled out in stadiums, the cabling and connectivity infrastructure they rely on must also be one of a kind. Here are just a few examples of what stadiums have asked us for:


  • Cables manufactured in a custom color
  • An alternative to field-terminated plugs to connect IoT devices to networks
  • Innovative ways to manage large numbers of fiber connections
  • The option to deploy ribbon cable in narrow pathways and small conduit with tight turns
  • The ability to deliver Digital Electricity™ over extended distances indoors and outdoors


These challenges have been the inspiration for many Belden innovations over the past few years:


  • The REVConnect® FlexPlug, which ensures direct connections and eliminates the need for jacks, biscuit boxes and patch cords for faster installation with fewer components. This one plug works with any device that connects to the network via an RJ45 plug, making it easy to do things like connect an access point or camera in a tight space or when mounting brackets are blocked.
  • Flexible Ribbon Cable, which was developed specifically for a stadium project to create new installation possibilities in narrow pathways and small conduit. The cable’s small OD and superb flexibility make it easier and faster to handle than traditional ribbon cable. Sorting and ribbonization are already complete, which reduces labor resources, costs and necessary tools associated with traditional ribbon cable.
  • The DCX Optical Distribution Frame, which offers the highest per-square-foot fiber termination density available, along with easy patch cord access, cable/patch cord protection, flippable modular cassettes for polarity management and front-access cabinet design for multiple configurations.


3. Fast and Easy Installation


Stadium projects often have nonnegotiable opening days that align with big games or other events. There’s no time for delays or setbacks.


To make sure deadlines are met, multiple contractors are often onsite at the same time to complete installation work. They all need product training—but the training needs to be quick so workers are ready to hit the ground running within minutes of arriving at the jobsite for the first time.


Using REVConnect Connectivity solutions allows installers—even those new to the field—to be ready to install in 15 minutes or less. Instead of having to learn many different termination processes for jacks and plugs, installers are trained on one methodology that covers any termination style.


4. Logistical Oversight and Management

Because of their sheer size, stadium owners often want to do everything possible to minimize miscommunication, reduce mistakes and prevent setbacks. Open communication is just as important as the cabling and connectivity that supports the venue’s technology.


To manage logistics in a recent project, Belden created forums that connected technical staff with owners and contractors for direct interaction and problem-solving. Toward the end of the project, weekly calls kept owners and contractors updated on product availability, installation and potential delays or other issues.


Want to learn more about how Belden can help bring one-of-a-kind, immersive experiences to its fans? Start here