Vikings want to make their stadium a killer app

Artist's rendering of Vikings stadium.
An artist's rendering of the new Vikings stadium.
Image courtesy of HKS Architects

Even as the concrete flows for their new stadium in downtown Minneapolis, the Minnesota Vikings are already working to make themselves at home somewhere else: your smartphone.

The team is building an app that will leverage their new home and tie fans closer than ever to the team -- to keep them buying tickets and coming to the games. It's part of a broader mobile media strategy to keep fans tied to the team whether they're at home or at the game. The idea is that if you follow the Vikings, the Vikings follow you.

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"We're going to make sure that the connectivity for our fans is absolutely what you have at home, what you have in your local coffee shop. That's step one," said Steve LaCroix the team's marketing director.

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"When you leave the driveway to start to come down to the game, we look at it like you're kind of on your clock now. So how can we bring an all inclusive app that has traffic information, parking information? Once you enter the facility or come in the vicinity, start driving exclusive content to your mobile device."

While the new Vikings stadium won't open until 2016, the team is already looking to the new Levi's Stadium outside San Francisco for ideas. The 49ers GameDay app offered fans exclusive in-stadium game video last year and and will be integrated into the team's new stadium opening in Santa Clara, California, this summer.

Sports Illustrated reports the 49ers stadium app may have details right down to which beer stands have the quickest service and which bathrooms have the shortest lines. The 49ers have even been working on the holy grail of stadium commerce, in-seat ordering for food and drinks.

Levi's Stadium
An artist's rendering of the 49ers' new stadium in San Francisco.
Courtesy San Francisco 49ers

The Vikings are a little leery about that one: No one is sure if a stadium can handle 10,000 people asking at once if someone could please bring them a beer.

They see a lot of value, though, in mobile apps that can answer questions and bring data quickly to fans.

"Having an app -- whether that's fantasy football stats, or replays, different angles, maybe you're sitting within the Vikings museum and you want to know more about a specific element that's being posted -- you can really dig deeper," said Erin Swartz, digital strategy manager for the Vikings.

Experts say that kind of technology is already shaping up to be a make-or-break factor in live sports.

Even in football crazy Gainesville, Florida, where the Gators won national championships in 2007 and 2009, mobile technology -- or lack of it -- is having a noticeable impact in the stands.

"Here at the University of Florida, if you talk to students, you know, student attendance is down at the stadium, and a lot of them are saying it's because cell reception is so poor there, and they can't get on Twitter and they can't text their friends," said Kevin Hull, a former sportscaster and Ph.D. student at the University of Florida who authored a recent study on how Twitter and other social media are displacing traditional sports broadcasting.

For the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, that's more than just a passing concern. It's game day and butts in seats that will be pay the mortgage at the new $1 billion stadium.

"Today, we're often competing with the home experience that a fan might have," said James Farstad, a technology consultant working with the sports facilities authority.

"They can interact with their friends on Facebook and Twitter. They have the ability to have their large screen TV. They've got food handy. They have a nice seating environment," he said. "Our job is to get those people motivated to get out of the house and come on downtown and have a good time."

On that score, LaCroix says they'll be watching the 49ers to see what works and what doesn't before the Vikings open their stadium in 2016. "You know, San Francisco is two years ahead of us, and as we all know, in the world of technology, two years is a long time."