The students attending the University of Nebraska – Lincoln received a nice surprise when they returned for classes last week. The school’s football arena, Memorial Stadium, was given a $12.3 million makeover in an effort to improve its sound system and Wi-Fi capabilities.
Upgrading stadium Internet access is a fairly new concept among universities, with only four other schools providing Wi-Fi access to sports fans – Auburn, Texas Christian University, Penn State and Stanford. While other schools have offered students free Internet inside their arenas, University of Nebraska director of information technology Dan Floyd noted that none of those projects were as big as the one taken on by UNL. To give spectators in Memorial Stadium broad coverage, 900 antennas were installed around the premises. The hardware took three months to fully install, but Floyd says his team will continue making adjustments all season.
“When they do a large venue like a stadium or an area, there are no people in it,” said Floyd in an interview with The Daily Nebraskan. “So you really don’t have the opportunity to test it until its full of people.”
The Wi-Fi upgrade, dubbed Memorial Stadium Fan Experience Improvements, makes University of Nebraska’s football arena the largest collegiate stadium connected to Wi-Fi and the second largest connected stadium overall, second only to AT&T Stadium in Dallas. The improvements made to the Internet offerings allow football spectators to have access to special features on the school’s mobile app that are only available within the stadium, like instant replays. Floyd said that he wants Husker fans to be able to bring their mobile devices to football games and be able to connect them anywhere in the stadium.
“It’s very important for the stadium to be connected socially,” said Floyd. “You’re connected in the union as a student, you’re connected inside Starbucks as a client. Wherever you go, people have that expectation.”
According to Omaha.com, 80 percent of the stadium’s visitors should be able to access the Wi-Fi network at the same time without a problem, enabling fans to post pictures, Tweet about the game or view exclusive game footage as easily as they could at home. As students become increasingly attached to their tablets and smartphones, being able to provide reliable Internet access in the locations they spend most of their time is a boon to schools looking to increase student involvement and school spirit.