Magazine Article | January 18, 2007

Wireless POS System Keeps Sports Fans In Their Seats

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

American Airlines Center provides luxury suite guests with seat-side ordering for food delivery in less than 4 minutes.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, February 2007

The $400 million American Airlines Center in Dallas was built in 2001 to house the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and the National Hockey League's Dallas Stars, as well as to host a variety of entertainment and sporting events. As many as 20,000 people can fill the complex at any one time. As a result, the American Airlines Center relies on a variety of technologies, including a retractable seating system and a unique eight-sided scoreboard, to make customers happy. According to Lori Glasser-Seinera, vice president of strategic alliance and sales for the American Airlines Center, keeping the 840,000-square-foot center "technology-relevant" has been a goal of Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban, who was instrumental in getting the facility built.

From the start, 24 Dell PowerEdge 2450 servers and 300 OptiPlex GX520 and GX620 desktops have supported everything from ticketing and lighting to food and beverage sales. Fans in any of the 142 platinum-level luxury suites have access to the Internet so they can check the stats of their favorite players or check e-mail. These guests don't even have to leave their seats to grab a favorite food or drink. Instead, they place their orders with event staff using Symbol 880 handheld computers running Windows CE 4.0. Food can be ordered and delivered in less than 4 minutes. A total of 25 handhelds are used to serve as many as 3,000 people per event in the food-inclusive, special-seating section. Another 230 fixed Dell IBM terminals are used by employees to speed order-taking at the concession stands.

POS information is continually polled from concession stands during events, according to Joe Heinlein, the center's director of IT. "We can look at back end POS information to see real-time inventory and rush inventory and staff to needed areas," says Heinlein. The polled information also is used to plan for future events and cut down on waste, because once a stand is opened, it is not closed until an event is over.

Even though the American Airlines Center was cabled for technology as it was being built, eliminating some integration issues, Heinlein admits there have been some bumps in the road.

"When we implemented the handhelds in 2003 and 2004, we didn't have the level of security we wanted," Heinlein explains. "We installed the Aruba network switching equipment to run a virtual private network to all devices and make them secure." During the next NBA finals, the network enabled 300 members of the press to file stories from throughout the facility, including the press box, media room, and conference rooms.

LCD, Digital Signage Enhances Customer Experience
The American Airlines Center recently upgraded its customer experience with the addition of 500 Dell televisions, including 185 Dell W4201C 42-inch high-definition plasma TVs in the 144 luxury suites and common areas, as well as 23 Dell W5001C 50-inch high-definition plasma TVs in the platinum-level seating area. In addition, 276 Dell W3201C 32-inch high-definition LCD and Dell W2306C 23-inch LCD TVs are used to display digital entertainment and digital signage in the various concourses. Now fans can keep an eye on the game while at the concession stand or just about anywhere else in the building.

"We strive to make our guest experience the best it can be by bringing in new technology," Glasser-Seinera adds. "The flat panels outside the guest suites have had the most 'wow' factor."

The combination of Dell servers and video was put to the test during a Dallas Stars hockey game that ran into an unusually long overtime. Without the servers, the American Airlines Center would not have been able to process credit cards or update sales information. According to Glasser-Seinera, the servers are also essential for tracking employee time and attendance and maintaining the center's Web page.

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