Northwestern University (NU) is revving up the game-day experience for Wildcat fans at its newly renovated Welsh-Ryan Arena. The arena in Evanston, Illinois, was built in 1983 and serves as home court for its basketball, volleyball, and wrestling teams. The venue had been largely untouched since its opening and to make way for the $110 million renovation, the school completely gutted the existing structure. The mission was to create an environment that would feel both intimate for fans and intimidating to visiting teams. Seating capacity was adjusted to just over 7,000 seats to create one of the world’s most accessible arenas, while giving every spectator a great view of the court and allowing room for the new Wilson Club premium seating area.
The other priority for transforming the fan experience was focused on updating the CATV system and implementing the best video technology available. NU improved the fan visual experience by installing a four-sided center court video game board, LED ribbon displays around the arena, and two large video boards for scores and gameday info.
With the goal of delivering a state-of-the-art fan experience at the forefront of the planning process, the organization required an IPTV and digital signage system that could do more than just display video and concession signs. NU needed an IPTV solution that could distribute an ultra-low-latency video stream, high-quality live feed to every screen, and would offer a selection of IPTV channels from multiple service providers. Additionally, the digital signage solution needed to easily allow the school to create sharp, high-quality video content, digital signage campaigns, and point-of-sale menu boards at the arena’s 36 concession stands. The final item on the checklist was a centralized, user-friendly interface that the school’s small broadcast operations staff and sponsorship team could easily manage from the broadcast control building, adjacent to the arena.
Brian Baptiste, the school’s deputy director of athletics for capital projects and operations, spent time researching the IPTV setups of many leading collegiate and professional sports teams. During this process, Baptiste and the NU team were made aware of VITEC’s EZ TV IPTV & Digital Signage Solution for Sports Venues by the digital integration group within Mortensen, the GC for the renovation. The NU team learned that VITEC was the platform for some of the nation’s most state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venues, including the Sacramento Kings’ Golden 1 Arena and the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field.
The VITEC EZ TV solution not only enhances the fan experience with broadcast-quality, ultra-low-latency live and on-demand video streams, but also provides digital signage capabilities to every display over the facility’s existing network infrastructure. With VITEC, NU is able to engage fans while reducing the capital and operational expenses associated with legacy solutions. Driven by VITEC’s affordable hardware-based endpoints; every screen in the university’s network becomes a potential revenue opportunity, backed by analytics and supported with dynamic data and menu boards that automate food service workflows. VITEC’s 100-percent hardware-based video processors feature ultra-low-latency native playback of IPTV streams up to 4K and support interactive content, video, and imagery transformations. More than 50 displays can be managed from a single processor, including nonstandard layouts and resolutions of TVs.
The high-performance solution also supports scalability into the future with VITEC’s mobile app for iOS and Android devices for streaming live video and playback of IPTV content. An integrated, EZ TV Media Library option enables administrators to tag, edit, organize, store, search, and share media files for archiving or playback. The VITEC EZ TV solution provides a suite of modular tools that further streamline media processes from live streaming to recording, archiving, and collaboration; easily allowing users to manage a full digital video experience across an entire venue.