Networking Solutions Increase Concession Sales

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The New Jersey Devils came up short this year and didn’t advance to the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the team and its home arena, the Prudential Center in Newark, won big in sales and customer engagement though an expanded partnership with Verizon.

“There are certain elements of the products and solutions for sports franchises that are different from anywhere else outside of sports, which makes our requirements slightly different than for anyone else,” says Sasha Puric, chief technology officer for Harry Blitzer Sports Entertainment, which owns the Devils and the Prudential Center as well as a number of other sports franchises. “We support everything in-house, from accounting and CRM systems all the way up to ticketing platforms and POS platforms for food and beverage purchases.”

Common among all of these technologies is the need for integration/collaboration and security, Puric adds. Those concerns need to be balanced with the desire for continuous improvement in the fan experience.

“The [Prudential Center] has become a gathering place for people pre- and postgame,” Puric says. “People are no longer sitting in their seats disengaged from the rest of the world. The social media world continues to exist, no matter where they are. All of a sudden, great connectivity moved from a nice-to-have to a differentiation. We had to make sure that all of these amazing technologies were put in place.”

In addition to enabling fans to stay engaged with social media, better connectivity also meant they could quickly purchase food and beverages from the Prudential Center convenience stores.

That desire led to the expansion of a partnership with Verizon, with the arena deploying a suite of Verizon solutions, including Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, Verizon Private 5G Network, and Wi-Fi 6/6E.

Alongside the network connectivity upgrades, the Prudential Center made it possible for fans to make purchases more quickly from the arena’s Mashgin Corner Markets and Pepsi Grab N Go locations. Fans can buy food and drinks with cashierless checkout. Computer vision technology from Verizon partner AiFi enables customers to enter gated stores by scanning credit cards or other preauthorized payment methods (including biometric methods using faces or palms). After entering they simply take the items they want and then exit. Payment takes place online after they leave the store.

The first such store opened during the 2023-24 season, and transaction times there averaged less than one minute. That one outlet accounted for 25 percent of all food and beverage sales at the entire arena by the end of the season.

Though Verizon certainly has plenty of competitors, the Prudential Center and New Jersey Devils were already working with the telecom giant, according to Puric. “We looked at other vendors and resellers that work in the networking space in arenas and stadiums. Verizon is a New Jersey company that is literally in our neighborhood; we have a really good relationship with them. They took an interest in our business at all levels, which is interesting for a business of that size. They are now one of our key corporate partners.”

In addition to the top-tier wireless technology, Verizon also had the engineering capability and skill sets to deploy the technology in the Prudential Center. Like other arenas and stadiums, networking for tens of thousands of fans at any given time is challenging due to the large amounts of steel and concrete.

The Prudential Center went live with the expanded technology in the fourth quarter of last year. Verizon worked with various integrators to deploy overhead wireless access points so fans could have broadband access at all levels of the facility. 

The Payoff 

Since adding Verizon partner AiFi's computer vision technology at one of its food and beverage outlets, the Prudential Center and the New Jersey Devils have enjoyed the following benefits:

  • a strong conversion rate, with 96 percent of patrons visiting the convenience market making a purchase;
  • fast transaction times, with fans spending less than one minute through the market; and
  • high sales ratios, representing 25 percent of total sales from all food and drink outlets and 40 percent of total sales from all drink outlets.

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