Cisco details tech plans for new Yankee Stadium

Cisco Systems is helping the New York Yankees turn their new stadium into a cutting edge facility for the 21st century baseball fan.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
4 min read
A picture of the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx set to open in April 2009. Marguerite Reardon CNET News/CBS Interactive

NEW YORK--Cisco Systems is teaming up with the New York Yankees to offer baseball fans an interactive experience at the ballpark and eventually bring that experience to their living rooms.

At a press conference in Manhattan on Tuesday, Cisco CEO John Chambers unveiled details of a new network the company is building for the Bronx Bombers to help them integrate voice, video, and data into their new stadium, which is set to open in April 2009.

The new network, which is costing the New York Yankees about $15 million to $16 million to build, will bring high-definition video throughout the stadium as well as a level of interactivity that has never been seen previously.

Chambers emphasized the important role that video will play in making the stadium a cutting edge facility.

Cisco CEO John Chambers discusses technology innovations for the Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Marguerite Reardon CNET News/CBS Interactive

" Video is the key word here," he said. "This is where high tech is going. If you flash forward into the future it is going to change the fan experience entirely."

As part of its network, which will also include typical IP infrastructure equipment, Cisco also plans to mount 1,100 high-definition IP monitors throughout the stadium in luxury suites, restaurants, bars, and even the bathrooms so that fans won't miss a minute of the action. The monitors, which will all be managed from a central location, will be able to provide various views and angles of the game.

And when the game ends, the monitors will help direct Yankee fans to the nearest exits and provide information about traffic and subways. In the event of an emergency, the monitors will be used to provide evacuation instructions.

Initially, most of the cool technology will be available only in the luxury suites. In these suites fans will be able to change the view of the game on their high-definition IPTV, call-up instant replays, and order food and beverages right from a Cisco IP phone in the suite.

But Chambers said it wouldn't be long before these other features are added throughout the ballpark and available to fans either on individual terminals at their seats or via their cell phones. The Yankees are already working on a widget that can be downloaded onto cell phones to provide some enhanced content.

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He said fans will eventually be able to order concessions from their seats as well as Yankee merchandise. They might also play Yankee trivia games or get other tidbits of information about the team pushed to their phones. Fans will also be able to get information about tickets to future games or ways to swap tickets with friends. The technology will also allow fans to chat with others both inside and outside the stadium.

Hal Steinbrenner, Yankees executive vice president, treasurer, and general partner, said he is excited and impressed with the technology made available through Cisco. But he admitted he doesn't really understand it.

"Some of this is technology that I didn't know even existed," he said. "But we want to give our fans this ultimate experience."

Chambers said that the experience won't stop at the stadium. He said he believes that within the next two years many of the interactive features and functionality could be made available to fans at home.

"It's too early to say when we'll see this technology used at home," he said. "But if past experience is any indication, it will happen faster than we think. So within the next two years is reasonable."

For its part, Cisco is already planning to introduce new interactive video products into the home. Chambers told reporters during the question-and-answer period after the press conference that Cisco will announce a scaled down version of its telepresence video conferencing solution within the next 12 to 15 months. He said he believes that the cost of providing the service will be well within a consumer electronics budget. And with new high speed broadband offerings like Verizon's Fios service, he said that consumers have plenty of access to high capacity broadband connections for such services.

The Yankees also plan to use Cisco's corporate telepresence solution in the new stadium. And the organization plans to partner with a local school or library to bring players and other Yankee personnel to children in the community.

Chambers said the company is working with other Major League Baseball teams and that some of the new technology found in the new Yankee Stadium will likely be used in other stadiums, including the new Cisco Field, a stadium project in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Fremont that is expected to become the future home of the Oakland Athletics. Cisco, which is based in San Jose, Calif., announced in 2006 that it had sold a 143-acre parcel of land to the A's for the purpose of creating a state-of-the-art baseball park that would include housing, restaurants, and shops.