Challenge: Getting Fans Back in the Stands
On June 15, 2021, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 following a Mookie Betts go-ahead home run in the seventh inning. And it all took place in front of 52,078 fans, the largest crowd to attend a professional sporting event in the United States since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.1
The game was groundbreaking not only because of the capacity crowd in attendance, but also because of the new technology-driven fan experiences and stadium innovations that were unveiled for the first time.
“We’ve had our new data center platform in place for more than a year now, but without a stadium full of fans, we hadn’t been able to put it to the test,” says Ralph Esquibel, vice president of technology for the Dodgers, referencing the team’s Cisco HyperFlex infrastructure with Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors and Intel® Optane™ SSDs. “June 15 was exciting, like getting a Ferrari on the road for the first time.”
Fresh off a World Series championship in 2020, the storied baseball franchise had used its new data center infrastructure to produce digital models of Dodger Stadium, helping establish socially distanced seating areas and crowd management protocols during the pandemic. But with restrictions now lifted, the ballclub is eager to show off its new fan-centric capabilities.
Digital screens in the Dodger Stadium sports bar and concourses now display a variety of real-time data analytics during each at bat, including probabilities for pitch type and batter outcome. Those percentages and other statistics are dynamically updated after every pitch.
“It’s the game within the game,” says Esquibel. “As a fan, it’s neat to follow all of the data points and probabilities and see what’s happening as it happens.”
All digital systems within Dodger Stadium—from ticketing and point-of-sale to digital media and IPTV streaming—now run on the Cisco HyperFlex and Intel Optane technology infrastructure. And a host of Cisco Meraki smart cameras and Cisco Wireless Access Points are helping the ballclub better understand and accommodate fan preferences.
As a fan, it’s neat to follow all of the data points and probabilities and see what’s happening as it happens.”—Ralph Esquibel, Vice President of Technology, Los Angeles Dodgers
“We can measure ingress and egress counts, wait times, abandonment rates, and location-based engagement, all in real time,” Esquibel says. “That enables us to make informed marketing and staffing decisions on the fly.”
If a gate is crowded, for example, the team can shift additional ticketing and security personnel—as well as “hawkers” wielding handheld devices with game day promotions—to minimize wait times. If lines for concession stands or retail stores become too long, portable Dodger Dog or merchandise carts can be moved to reduce the congestion.
“In the past, we would test certain things. Now we’re analyzing everything in real time and making decisions accordingly,” Esquibel says. “Data is such a critical component of how we interact with our fans.”
Streamlining Technology Operations
Cisco HyperFlex and Intel Optane SSDs have done more than supercharge the Dodgers’ stadium analytics and fan experiences. The platform has also dramatically simplified the ballclub’s technology infrastructure and operations.
“The size and complexity of a technology stack can get out of hand quickly,” says Esquibel. “We have a small operations team, and we used to have one person—a senior member of my staff—dedicated solely to patch management. It was a full-time job, but now it takes less than an hour to update the entire environment.”
When they said we could get this type of performance with fewer nodes and less storage, it was hard to believe. It’s amazing to have an eight-node array that serves all of our needs, can be easily scaled, and is managed collectively instead of piece by piece.”—Ralph Esquibel, Vice President of Technology, Los Angeles Dodgers
Instead of managing 30 legacy nodes individually, the Dodgers are now using Cisco Intersight to manage eight nodes collectively.2 Two racks of physical gear have been consolidated down to half of a rack.2 More than 30 hypervisor hosts have been whittled down to six.2 And yet, the team has more computing power and memory performance than its IT leaders could previously imagine.
“When they said we could get this type of performance with fewer nodes and less storage, it was hard to believe. It didn’t make sense,” Esquibel says. “It’s amazing to have an eight-node array that serves all of our needs, can be easily scaled, and is managed collectively instead of piece by piece.”
No longer encumbered with infrastructure maintenance, the ballclub has shifted its focus to fan engagement and operational innovation—using its technology and data resources to ensure Dodger Stadium delivers the best possible experience for every attendee.
“We become more reliant on technology every year,” says Esquibel. “We’re doing things with Cisco and Intel technologies that didn’t seem possible a few short years ago, and they’ve changed our way of thinking and how we run our ballclub.”
- Deliver new stadium innovations and fan experiences
- Enable real-time marketing and staffing decisions
- Streamline data center maintenance and infrastructure patching
- High-performance hyperconverged infrastructure with cloud-based management
- Introduced dynamic, real-time game statistics and probabilities on digital displays throughout the stadium
- Improved operational responsiveness via crowd analytics
- Shifted IT focus from infrastructure maintenance to innovative fan experiences