Ballpark a Wi-Fi Hotspot with Hotdogs

The national pastime is getting unwired.

Owners of Raley Field, home of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats baseball team, Thursday said their stadium is now outfitted with wireless Internet access, popularly referred to as Wi-Fi , for its customers and field staff.

The access points are currently installed in luxury suites and the West Sacramento, Calif.
stadium’s exclusive “Solon Club”–a restaurant and bar for business and corporate clientele. The owners say by next season, the network should be extended to all fans so they can operate laptop computers, PDAs and other wireless devices from their seats. The management says it is even working on letting fans order a hot dog and Coke online and then have it delivered right to their seats.

“We’re not aware of anyone else creating a totally wireless environment at a ballpark,” Alan Ledford, president and CEO of the River Cats and Raley Field said in a statement. “Our new wireless element adds significant value to the organization, especially in terms of time-cost savings and customer satisfaction.”

PersonalTelco, a community networking group in Portland, Oregon recently worked with a business near minor-league baseball stadium PGE Park offer free wireless. Unfortunately, the park’s management said it conflicted with their arrangements with Comcast, a major sponsor.

For the Raley Field project, Corporate Information Exchange (CIE), a technology knowledge bank and services firm based in the Sacramento area, originally hatched the idea and presented the concept and to executives.

“CIE’s vision for a ‘Digital Ballpark’ has provided a unique opportunity to partner with the Sacramento River Cats and Raley Field. Here, we can provide added value to business operations, enhance the guest experience and showcase technology in motion,” said CIE co-founder Ali Mackani.

In addition to consumer e-mail and Internet access, the ballpark’s operations staff has started using the wireless network to adjust the stadium’s lighting and HVAC systems remotely from anywhere in the ballpark using wireless PDAs instead of having to do it from a control room.

The ball club says it is also exploring technology systems for ticket scanning at the gates, immediate updates to seating for real time information integration, as well as monitoring and viewing the stadium’s existing security cameras — all via wireless devices. The systems are expected to be in place by the end of the year.

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