Can a football stadium be as 'smart' as a phone?

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Can a football stadium be as 'smart' as a phone?
In this Sept. 14, 2014 photo, a fan uses an app on a smartphone to order food and drinks at Levi's Stadium during an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears in Santa Clara, Calif. If 49ers CEO Jed York realizes his vision, Levi'€™s Stadium will channel Silicon Valley'€™s ingenuity to become known as a technology temple programmed to pamper and connect fans who are more accustomed to being corralled in congested venues with little or no Internet access. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
A U.S. flag is presented on the field at Levi's Stadium as Pat Monahan of the music group Train sings the national anthem before an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
Levi's Stadium is seen during the first half of an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
In this Sept. 14, 2014 photo, fans cheer during an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears in Santa Clara, Calif. If 49ers CEO Jed York realizes his vision, Levi's Stadium will channel Silicon Valley's ingenuity to become known as a technology temple programmed to pamper and connect fans who are more accustomed to being corralled in congested venues with little or no Internet access. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
In this Sept. 14, 2014 photo, a fan uses an app on a smartphone to order food and drinks at Levi's Stadium during an NFL football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Chicago Bears in Santa Clara, Calif. If 49ers CEO Jed York realizes his vision, Levi'€™s Stadium will channel Silicon Valley'€™s ingenuity to become known as a technology temple programmed to pamper and connect fans who are more accustomed to being corralled in congested venues with little or no Internet access. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)
In this photo taken Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014, San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York demonstrates a new Levi's Stadium mobile app at the offices of VenueNext in Palo Alto, Calif. If York realizes his vision, Levi'€™s Stadium will channel Silicon Valley's ingenuity to become known as a technology temple programmed to pamper and connect fans who are more accustomed to being corralled in congested venues with little or no Internet access. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Fans enter Levi's Stadium before an NFL preseason football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Head Coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers brings the team together in the locker room following the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Captains of the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles stand a midfield for the coin flip prior to the game at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Head Coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers shakes hands with Head Coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles following the game at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Bruce Ellington #10 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes on an end around during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Patrick Willis #52 of the San Francisco 49ers fires the team up on the field prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Anquan Boldin #81 of the San Francisco 49ers stands on the field prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Quarterbacks Coach Geep Chryst of the San Francisco 49ers talks with Blaine Gabbert #2 and Colin Kaepernick #7 during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Dan Skuta #51 of the San Francisco 49ers pressures Nick Foles #9 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the game at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula of the San Francisco 49ers talks with Justin Smith #94, Ray McDonald #91 and Ian Williams #93 during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: The San Francisco 49ers special teams gets ready to take the field for the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Michael Crabtree #15 of the San Francisco 49ers makes a reception during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 28: Perrish Cox #20 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates on the field during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Levi Stadium on September 28, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Eagles 26-21. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Confetti rains down during the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A groundskeeper drives across the field before the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
People take pictures from the NRG Solar Terrace and green roof before the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. The 27,000 square foot space on the roof features 16 native plants, with over 5,000 square feet of room for hospitality as well. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Mahelly Ferreira unpacks a large pair of scissors to be used in a photo booth before the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York speaks before the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Guests attend a party in the United Club after the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions before the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks before the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh shakes hands with construction workers just before the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Confetti rains down during the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Construction workers stand on each side of the stage and watch the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Construction workers make their way to the ribbon-cutting and opening of Levi's Stadium Thursday, July 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open their new home. The $1.2 billion Levi's Stadium, which took only about 27 months to build, also will host the NFL Super Bowl in 2016 and other major events. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
FILE - This April 21, 2014 file photo shows the new Levi's Stadium during a preview tour in Santa Clara, Calif. The Pac-12 Conference will announce at a news conference Thursday May 15, 2014, that it is moving the league championship game to the San Francisco 49ers' new stadium in Santa Clara, a person familiar with the decision said. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, file)
Workers install seating at Levi's Stadium during a preview tour Monday, April 21, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The new home of the San Francisco 49ers football team opens in August. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
In this photo released by the San Francisco 49ers, the first pieces of turf are installed at the new Levi's Stadium Thursday, April 17, 2014, in Santa Clara, Calif. The installation of 2.5 acres of sod will take two days. The turf will come out in rolls 42 inches wide and will be approximately 100 feet long. The team selected West Coast Turf's Bandera Bermuda for the playing field. The stadium opens in August. The installation began in the north end of the stadium and work its way south. (AP Photo/San Francisco 49ers, Terrell Lloyd)
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) -- It's a tough challenge for the National Football League to entice fans off their comfy couches and into stadiums when ticket prices are almost as high as the sport's TV ratings.

The temptation to stay home goes beyond cost. Equipped with high-definition televisions, Wi-Fi and laptops, tablets and smartphones, fans at home can watch multiple games on Sunday while simultaneously checking their fantasy rosters and celebrating (or taunting) friends via text. So when the owners of the San Francisco 49ers drew up plans for the team's new $1.3 billion stadium, they tapped the ingenuity surrounding their Silicon Valley home.

The result? Levi's Stadium is home to the first mobile app designed to enhance every aspect of a fan's stadium experience, from steering fans to their parking spots to identifying the least-crowded restrooms. No more waiting in line for a $10 beer and $6 hot dog. During the game, fans can order food and drinks that can be delivered directly to their seats or picked up at express windows. Don't agree with that call? Use the app to watch instant replays from four camera angles.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says he saw the app's potential as soon as he downloaded it for the 49ers' Sept. 14 regular-season opener.

"Everybody's connection to the outside world now really is their phone, so that has to become part of the (game-day) experience," he said.

Mike Roberts of Martinez, California, appreciated being able to order popcorn from his seat for pickup at an express window with no lines.

"Everyone living around here is pretty tech savvy," notes Roberts, "so this is the perfect place to try something like this."

The app will ask fans if they want to order food and drinks at certain times during the game, depending on past behavior patterns. And Levi's Stadium greeters now can welcome fans by name after scanning their digital tickets at the gate. Ultimately, the 49ers hope to profit from the digital capabilities by eliminating ticket printing costs and ringing up more concession sales as the team gains a better understanding of fans' individual preferences.

The personal analysis mirrors what Google, Facebook and thousands of other mobile apps have been capitalizing on for years. Such surveillance doesn't bother 49er season-ticket holder Ron Johnson of San Francisco - as long as the app delivers on its promise to learn what he likes.

"I would much rather that they have some idea of what I want to buy so they can put that stuff front and center for me, as opposed to showing me things that I would never purchase," Johnson says.

Although some of the planned features aren't yet complete, roughly one-third of the sold-out crowds at the 49ers' first two regular-season games have used the app in some way. Levi's Stadium is now a massive laboratory that can test technology's ability to change the way large crowds experience athletic events, concerts and possibly even political conventions. If 49ers' CEO Jed York's vision pans out, venues across the U.S. will become as smart as the phones fans tote.

"We think this is going to be the forebear of everything else that comes to stadiums," says York.

The app and its underlying technology were developed by VenueNext, a startup backed by a venture capital fund financed by York and other members of 49ers' management team. York declined to disclose how much money has been invested in VenueNext, but the 49ers so far have spent about $125 million on the stadium's technology, including a Wi-Fi network capable of keeping up to 70,000 fans online so their movements and desires can be tracked.

Roughly two-thirds of the NFL's 31 stadiums are already wired for online access and the league wants all of them to provide free Wi-Fi by the 2016 season. The Wi-Fi goal is part of a league-wide push to give fans more reasons to attend games, not stay home.

"Our competition is the couch," says VenueNext founder John Paul.

Other sports teams and concert promoters do offer apps to make their events more convenient and enjoyable. Typically though, those services have been offered in piecemeal fashion: Fans might need one app to order food and another to find their way around. VenueNext is hoping to license its single-app system to other stadiums and arenas. The Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings already have expressed interest as they build new stadiums, says Paul. VenueNext's system could be useful at convention centers and "wherever you have got a lot of people congregated together for a major event," says longtime technology analyst Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies.

Anthony Dolezal of Lyons, Illinois, agrees that stadiums need better technology to keep people coming back. Were it not for a free ticket, he wouldn't have come to Soldier's Field for the Chicago Bears last Sunday.

"I would rather sit at home with my 52-inch TV, with my computer right there, a second TV I can move in and be able to see everything," Dolezal said.

The average ticket to a 49ers game at Levi's costs $117, second only to the $122 average for the New England Patriots. Including concessions, a family of four will spend an average of $641.50 at a 49ers game, the highest in the NFL, according to consulting firm Team Marketing Report.

At those prices, longtime 49er fan Cheryl Brandon of Mill Valley, California, appreciates the ability to order food from her seat so she won't miss a single play.

"I feel like if I came all this way to go to a game, I would like to be able to watch it," Brandon said.

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