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Deploying Wi-Fi at Lambeau Field: Bringing History to the Modern Day

Ryan Hall Published 20 Jun 2016

Located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the Green Bay Packers are one of the most storied franchises in the National Football League, if not across all professional sports. The team’s home stadium, Lambeau Field, was opened in 1957 and is the longest continually occupied stadium in the NFL, the third longest in professional sports in North America. Far more than just a sports venue, Lambeau Field is an icon and a representation of the team’s longstanding traditions; for example, the majority of seating within Lambeau’s 80,000 capacity stadium is comprised of metal bleachers – virtually unheard of in modern sports venues. When considering a replacement of the metal bleachers with individual seats, Packers’ President/CEO Mark Murphy didn’t see it as an option. Not only would it drop the stadium capacity by 10,000 people, it would radically impact the integrity of the stadium experience.

Lambeau Field is the longest continually occupied stadium in the NFL.

Lambeau Field is the longest continually occupied stadium in the NFL.

Despite the desire to preserve the tradition and legacy of the Packers and Lambeau Field, the team acknowledged there was an element of their in-stadium experience that needed an improvement: mobile connectivity, specifically the deployment of a high-density Wi-Fi solution. The fan experience at Lambeau will always be an exciting and passionate one, but the Packers also understood the growing expectations of their fan base to “stay connected” at all times, even at an NFL game. Equally, the Packers recognized an ability to leverage the new network as an asset to support critical business operations, advance strategic digital media and marketing initiatives, and bolster the overall experience at Lambeau and the surrounding grounds.

To accomplish this goal the Packers were faced with the challenge of maintaining the beloved aesthetics of Lambeau Field while deploying an effective network for guest and internal use. Because of the venue’s age and classic ‘open-bowl’ design, the deployment team needed to use creative methods when building out the infrastructure for the Wi-Fi network. “Packers Gold” enclosures and “Packers Green” wireless access points were specifically built to complement the existing aesthetics of the stadium while positioned to fulfill the network requirements in terms of coverage and capacity.

Golden closures (left) and green wireless access points (right) were specifically built for Lambeau Field.

Golden closures (left) and green wireless access points (right) were specifically built for Lambeau Field.

Despite these design and deployment challenges, which are characteristic of each Wi-Fi install, the Packers’ first season with high-density Wi-Fi was an immense success, with unique and concurrent Wi-Fi usage metrics increasing incrementally throughout the ‘15 season. Both guests who use their personal devices while attending games and internal functions who rely on the network to ensure the Packers’ operational success have access to the network. Considered crucial to the fan experience and business operations moving forward, the Packers have only just scratched the surface, and see Wi-Fi as a platform that they can build upon.

The Packers have only just scratched the surface and see Wi-Fi as a platform they can build upon.

The Packers have only just scratched the surface and see Wi-Fi as a platform they can build upon.

While the Wi-Fi project itself was certainly a collaborative effort by multiple parties, Wayne Wichlacz, the Packers’ Director of Information of Technology undoubtedly played a central role in the entire process: from the evaluation of available technologies, to overseeing the design and implementation of the solution, to measuring the impact of the technology for the organization and its fans. With over 20 years with the Packers, and over 30 years in the information technology industry, Wayne manages all technology and technology initiatives at the Packers’ facilities and their surrounding campus.

With this level of experience and institutional knowledge, Wayne is an incredible resource for any business professional involved in technology, which is why Extreme Networks is thrilled to have Wayne as a keynote speaker at the ExtremeForum, this May 26th in London, England. Wayne’s keynote, entitled ‘Fans for Life,’ will speak to the Packers’ decision to invest in high-density Wi-Fi at Lambeau Field, and in general explore how sports and business professionals can leverage technology to establish better connections with their customers and yield better results for their organization.

Click here to learn more about Wayne Wichlacz, his speaking session, and the ExtremeForum!