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IT company wins with stadium technology project


Fan experience was at the forefront when FC Cincinnati, the Cincinnati-based Major League Soccer franchise, began building the TQL Stadium.

The FCC needed networking technology to support a variety of stadium functions: secure, broadband, wired and wireless connections; mobile ticketing and digitization; a large video card; and a point of sale (POS) system for 175 food and beverage vendors. The organization turned to Minneapolis-based IT services and consulting firm Atomic Data to provide the stadium technology, which was based on Aruba Networks equipment. The duo delivered a network infrastructure capable of accommodating the growing attendance at the new stadium.

Network needs of the TQL Stadium

After Major League Soccer awarded Cincinnati an expansion franchise in 2018, the FCC intended to open a new facility and began building a privately funded $ 250 million stadium with a capacity of 26,000 seats. Careful planning has gone into the TQL Stadium building, which features 53 traditional suites and 4,500 premium seats spread across four premium club spaces.

FCC was looking for a distribution partner familiar with football stadiums to oversee the stadium network deployment and select Atomic Data. Atomic Data managed the technology for Minnesota United FC’s Allianz Field, a 19,400-seat football stadium that opened on April 13, 2019 and worked at the US Bank Stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. In addition to overseeing the networking project, Atomic Data would integrate the technology.

The companies then evaluated the vendors and decided to use Aruba Networks because of the design, scalability and pricing of Aruba’s equipment, noted Yagya Mahadevan, enterprise project manager at Atomic Data.

The stadium’s technology package included the following:

  • Aruba Wi-Fi 6 indoor and outdoor access points (APs) and mobility controllers for the TQL stadium wireless network;
  • Aruba edge access switches for IP audio and video;
  • Aruba CX Series switches for access and aggregation in the data center;
  • connectivity for visitors, including SeatGeek mobile ticketing and Fortress wireless scanners for paperless entry;
  • Appetize, a cloud-based point of sale system that supports stadium food and drink vendors;
  • two Daktronics video screens and 14,370 feet of SACO V-Stick S video devices that show live images, reruns, statistics, graphics and animation inside the stadium and on its east facade;
  • hundreds of security cameras and stadium access devices to ensure that intruders do not enter the stadium; and
  • business applications, such as Microsoft Office 365.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the project

Atomic Data tested all of the project’s equipment at its data center in Minneapolis and then shipped it to the stadium, Mahadevan said. The company then coordinated with the prime contractor, IBM, to provide connectivity for the stadium.

COVID regulations have made it difficult to install the equipment.

Yagya MahadevanCompany project manager, Atomic Data

“COVID regulations have made it difficult to install the equipment,” Mahadevan said. “We had to provision the system in a piecemeal fashion rather than an end-to-end deployment. “

FCC wanted an exceptionally responsive network. “Fans don’t understand the network technology used in point-of-sale, mobile phone, parking or ticketing applications,” said Dan Lolli, vice president of facilities and general manager of the stadium for the FCC. “At the end of the day, all they care about is whether the network is responsive or not.”

Atomic Data used Aruba’s network administration tools during the project, including its policy-based network access control product ClearPass and NetEdit software to coordinate switch configuration, monitoring, and troubleshooting. Atomic and Aruba tinkered with the placement of the wireless hotspots to ensure there were no dead zones in the stadium, according to Mahadevan.

The stadium opened in May 2021 with 7,000 fans in its first game. As the number of participants gradually increased over the following weeks, Atomic Data and Aruba continued to refine connections and network coverage.

New partnerships

The TQL Stadium technology project marked the first collaboration between Atomic Data and Aruba Networks.

“The Aruban team have been very responsive,” said Mahadevan. “They were available to us whenever we needed them to run integrations and validate the network architecture. Stadium.”

The TQL Stadium network performed well. “Atomic Data understood our needs as they had worked at other football stadiums,” Lolli said. “They knew the importance of the front-end and back-end systems supporting our customer experience and created a very responsive solution. “

As a result of the project, Atomic Data said, the company now provides FCC with virtual CIO services, remote support and managed services involving compliance, infrastructure and server management.

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