Sep 22 2016

How Xcel Energy Center Creates 'A Greater State of Hockey'

Advanced displays and Wi-Fi help deliver a great fan experience for the Minnesota Wild.

For the Minnesota Wild, success is more than just fielding a winning team on the ice. It’s even more than delivering a great fan experience.

“Our mission,” says chief operating officer Matt Majka, “is to create a greater state of hockey.”

When the National Hockey League awarded the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area an expansion franchise in 1997, the team knew it wouldn’t begin competing in the league until the 2000-01 season. Team executives and staff members had three years to plan the building of the franchise, including the construction of a new arena.

The team asked fans what they wanted in a hockey arena, Majka says, and it used their input in planning and building the Xcel Energy Center.

Maintaining a Focus on Fans

Fans were the primary consideration as well in 2015 when the team undertook a major technology overhaul. A significant upgrade of the wireless network that delivers Wi-Fi access throughout the building was a key element of the overhaul.

The team deployed 430 Cisco Systems access points throughout the arena to make sure fans can get a signal no matter where they are in the building, says Jim Ibister, vice president of facility administration. The Wild also turned to a third party to help it roll out the networking upgrade, partnering with CDW for its expertise with network technology and experience on large stadium IT projects.

Before it started on the wireless access points, CDW conducted a site survey to measure network operations, then came up with a design and implementation plan to improve network performance. CDW’s engineers helped the Wild upgrade its wired network to deliver the bandwidth and performance needed to support the Wi-Fi deployment, says Tom Plankers, regional sales director for CDW.

The team also installed a massive video board above center ice, as well as other LED displays at strategic spots around the arena. And it deployed a ribbon of LED display completely around the seating area. The displays are integrated via a Cisco StadiumVision system that allows the team’s staff to deliver content to fans from a control center at the top of the arena. The content includes prompts for fans to cheer, sponsor messages, statistics, scores and trivia.

In addition to keeping fans in mind, the Wild also gave careful consideration to the environment. The Xcel Energy Center has been certified to meet three international sustainability standards: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Green Globes and APEX/ASTM. The steps the team has taken to achieve these standards help to save energy, reduce waste and conserve resources.

“We showed results, and that got the attention of our owner,” Ibister says. “He said, ‘Yeah, we want to continue this kind of thing.’ ”

To learn how another sports team pulled off a major IT upgrade for its fans, read “How the Cleveland Browns Made Their Wi-Fi Network Ready for Game Day.”

NVJ via Flickr

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