Giants' digital ballpark gears up for busy offseason

Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:47pm EDT
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By Rory Carroll

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Ten years ago, when San Francisco's AT&T Park became the first sport's stadium to offer free Wi-Fi to fans, it was considered a novelty.

Fewer than 100 people connected to the network per game that first season, and those that did, did not necessarily endear themselves to their fellow Major League Baseball fans.

"Back then, people would kind of laugh at you if were using your laptop and popped in a Wi-Fi card (during a game)," said Bill Schlough, senior vice president & chief information officer for the San Francisco Giants.

Fast-forward to Sunday's World Series game, when half of the sold-out crowd at the waterside stadium connected to the Wi-Fi network, and it's plain to see that wireless technology has gone from novelty to necessity for fans.

Thousands of jubilant orange and black-clad Giants fans held their phones out during the ninth inning on Sunday night, trying to capture the final out of the final home game of the year.

To keep up with the growing demand for bandwidth, the ballpark will install hundreds of additional under-the-seat Wi-Fi antennas during the offseason as well as some in hand rails, Schlough said.

Doing so is an expensive and labor-intensive undertaking, but one that is necessary to cater to the Bay Area's tech-savvy baseball fans, who consider being able to post photos and videos from the games on Facebook, Twitter, Vine and other social networks instantly a key element of the experience.

“That’s what it’s all about when you get to the biggest event in our sport -- letting all your friends know you were here and sharing that experience with them,” Schlough said.   Continued...

Oct 28, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; San Francisco Giants fans hold up a sign before game six of the 2014 World Series before the game against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports