The New Meadowlands Stadium – home to the New York Giants and New York Jets – is gearing up to open one of the most pricey and technologically advanced stadiums in the world at a cost of over $1.7 billion. Technology investments alone for the stadium came in at over $100 million.

Along with an array of high-tech features, the new stadium – located in East Rutherford, New Jersey – is gaining attention for its upcoming stint as host of the NFL’s first 3-D broadcast set to debut Sept. 2, when the New York Giants host the New England Patriots in the preseason.

“Sporting events have always been a driver of media technology, from the early days of games on the radio and color TV. Football fans have changed in the way that they watch football, and it’s our responsibility and challenge to change with them,” Mark Lamping, New Meadowlands Stadium Co. president and CEO during a live Webcast press conference on Monday.

“Watching football at home comes with HDTV and surround sound, and we wanted to bring these enhancements to the new stadium to truly expand on the live game-day experience for our fans,” Lamping said.

The stadium first opened its doors in April to host the Big City Classic lacrosse tournament, but it will officially debut on September 12th for its season opener. The 3-D broadcast on September 2 is a pre-season game.

3-D on the horizon

Verizon will air the first 3-D NFL game for FiOS TV subscribers in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island next Thursday. Viewers must have 3-D TV sets, 3-D glasses and a high-definition set-top box to view the broadcast.

Verizon is working with a company called 3ality Digital to produce the broadcast. With the help of a 3flex camera platform, the stadium will use two cameras attached to one rig -- one camera for the left eye and one camera for the right eye. Those feeds will then be brought into a truck stationed outside the stadium and compiled to form the 3-D signal.

The game isn’t Verizon’s first foray into 3-D broadcasts sporting events. On July 10 and 11, the company broadcast the first Major League Baseball games in 3-D between the New York Yankees and the Seattle Mariners.

“You will see a lot of 3-D at The New Meadowlands Stadium over the next two to three years – and then you will start to see it pop up more elsewhere,” said Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon Communications Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, during the press conference. “What these two franchises will do here will impact the football viewing experience in the future.”

Verizon is also working with popular sports bars in the New York and New England markets to give consumers without the FiOS service a first-hand look at its 3-D experience.

“The closer you can get to the game, the more you feel a part of it,” said John Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco. “We haven’t seen anything yet to show how 3-D sports broadcasts will evolve. Consider the movie industry and let your mind run.”

The stadium

The New Meadowlands stadium touts many cutting-edge technologies designed to transform the look and feel of the venue that will host both New York Giants and New York Jets games, as well as other sporting and entertainment events.

“Nothing enhances the fan experience like putting a winning team on the field – and that will always be our number one focus – but having seen what other stadiums have done around the country have accomplished, we decided very early on that we wanted to be the most technologically-advanced stadium in the world,” said John Mara, owner of the New York Giants. “This building will be the most plugged in, high-def, multimedia-platform friendly sports and entertainment venue ever created.”

“When fans enter this stadium, they are going to feel like they are stepping into the future,” Mara added. “They are going to be very excited.”

It has taken over three years to turn the stadium into a high-tech reality. The core objectives were “to use technology to brand the stadium, enhance the fan experience and help manage the stadium,” said Peter Brickman, the Chief Technology Officer of New Meadowlands Stadium.

To start, the venue assembled the Verizon and Cisco team about 18 months ago to begin designing the network. Brickman said they were told to expect a network that required 10,000 data ports, thousands of miles of cable that fed into 60 telecom rooms and then into the data center.

“This was very large,” Brickman said. “We also realized that, in some areas, the technology didn’t exist, but that didn’t stop anyone.”

With a seating capacity of 82,500 – the second largest in the United States – New Meadowlands Stadium is equipped with four massive high-definition (HD) video display scoreboards and more than 2,200 HD video displays located throughout the facility all designed to provide fans with access to the game virtually anywhere in the venue.

“At the old stadium, there were seats where you couldn’t see a screen for a replay,” Mara said. “At the new stadium, you will be able to see at least two to four from your seat. We will have options for everyone, whether you want to get involved with the technology and interactivity or if you just want to watch the game and the replays.”

All video displays are powered by the latest release of Cisco StadiumVision, a digital video and content distribution system that will display live game footage, team trivia, news and weather information. The displays are also designed to allow stadium operators to change the entire color scheme, content and team branding from Giants blue to Jets green with the push of a few buttons.

Meanwhile, Verizon is teaming with Cisco to bring 34 channels of customized HD content into the stadium, allowing fans access to view multiple games and other content at the same time in various areas of the facility.

“You may just be coming to see the game, but once you get here and experience the technology, you will get even more out of it,” said Woody Johnson, Chairman and CEO, New York Jets.

Johnson also noted that the technology was designed so it can be seamlessly updated with new breakthroughs as they occur.

The Giants and Jets are also working with Verizon Wireless to offer fans mobile apps that feature concessions information, team news, player information, scores and highlights, as well as alerts and text messaging. The Jets and Giants will be among the first to offer these team specific applications to their fans in the fall, complementing the NFL Mobile app available only from Verizon Wireless.

Fan interaction

The technology used at the new stadium was created to be highly interactive. For example, each register at a concession stand will have a bar code scanner that can be used for a loyalty card program.

“When you buy a ticket for a site like Ticketmaster, you will be able to pre-load funds for merchandise or concessions that can be redeemed when you show the ticket or card at the register,” Brickman of the New Meadowlands Stadium said, adding that a loyalty card program is already in the works. “If it’s a fan’s birthday and they approach the concession stand, we can put ‘Happy Birthday!’ up on the nearby stand. We want to make it a customized, personalized experience for fans.”

Brickman said that the technology can also be used to keep track of what’s being purchased, the popularity of certain items and even the popularity of sales people, determining if they are selling fast or too slow.

“The technology is highly interactive with advanced, robust reporting,” Brickman said. “This, along with the other innovative capabilities, will allow us to significantly enhance the fan experience now and into the future.”