CXO

Chip Foley: Tech architect. Stadium builder. Gadget nut.

Barclays Center VP of Technology discusses his obsession with gadgets, advancing technology in sports, and thinking like a startup founder.

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Chip Foley is the VP of Technology for Forest City Ratner Companies.
 Image: Chip Foley
Chip Foley talks exceptionally fast. He has a youthful spirit about him, especially when he's excitedly professing his love for new technological innovations and the wide range of ideas he has to integrate them into everyday life.

"I'm 36 years old and I still want to be a kid," Foley said, laughing. "I should probably talk to a psychiatrist. I want to be a kid forever with all these gadgets."

Yes, he's unabashedly obsessed with gadgets. Foley will try out anything he can gets his hands on. Two drones sit on his office desk. A 3D printer is in the corner. And then there's his growing collection of wearables: Google Glass is his favorite, but in light of Facebook's recent news, he now really wants Oculus Rift.

Foley is the Vice President of Building Technology for Forest City Ratner Companies, which owns the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, one of the most technologically advanced sports and entertainment centers in the world. He is a huge proponent of integrating technology into every industry, especially sports and entertainment.

Foley oversaw the Barclays Center technology design and implementation. The arena has a three-story tall HD scoreboard, 700 HD displays, Cisco's Connected Sports and Entertainment solutions, which support the nearly 8,000 square feet of LED, and free high-speed Wi-Fi. The Barclays Center also has a mobile app and a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) that makes it seamless for stadium-goers to stay connected on their smartphones.

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Foley's drones.
 Image: Chip Foley

Because the Barclays Center is privately owned, Foley said he felt he had more freedom in his creativity in developing the connected arena. Since the technology they were working with was uncharted territory, the project had a startup mentality. There were brainstorming sessions, post-its on the walls, and white boards covered in ideas.

"I get excited about the idea of collaboration," he said. "In the sports and entertainment world and in the tech world, partnerships with Sony and Cisco put us on the map. I get a seat at the table with the CTO of Blackberry or Samsung. At the same time, we try to figure out how that can benefit fans and Barclays Center, but also the tenants in our building."

Many of the tenants in the buildings Forest Ratner owns are young and tech-savvy, which gives Foley even more energy to utilize the most advanced technology in his own projects.

"Seeing these small companies build up makes part of me wish I was in the startup world, starting from scratch, getting acquired, then having everybody utilize the technology and improve the way it's done."

This passion for technology is why he's been so successful at Forest Ratner. His competitive spirit doesn't hurt, either. Foley said his CEO is a "closet gadget guy," and the two have a running friendly competition of who has the best tech tools. This competitiveness translates into his personal life as well. Foley has competed in 50 triathlons and many other races, and said he can't do much, including exercise, without an end goal -- something to strive for.

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Foley competing in a triathlon.
 Image: Chip Foley

Whatever technology Foley utilizes at work or home, he tries to tie it back to enhancing the experience for the fans at the Barclays Center.

"How do you provide the latest and greatest with Barclays, and what amenities can we provide to our fans here," he said. "I worked on the project for seven years and it consumed my life. My life [revolved] around seeking that latest and greatest technology."

But don't think he'd have it any other way.

In his own words...

How do you unplug?

"In my personal life I do travel. I am addicted to buying bicycles, going on long rides, running, working out. Once I jump on a bicycle, that's kind of my release. I try not to put my headphones on and listen to music, and just enjoy life and what's around."

What inspires you every day?

"I wake up and look at Twitter to figure out what's going on. I work out and look at the feed and come into work later sometimes because I'm spending so much time going through top tech news."

What is your favorite thing to cook?

"I'm a big foodie. I cook and you know what saved my life? Blue Apron and Plated. I get three or four meals a week, it helps me cook at home, it's all prepared ingredients, how hard could it be? You chop up vegetables, heat up a pan, fry it up, instead of going out every single night."

What's your favorite type of music?

"I'm an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) fan. I always have Spotify in the background, between top 40 and dance music, which I tie into my workouts. I like to see what the kids are listening to nowadays, because I never want to get old."

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About

Lyndsey Gilpin is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She writes about the people behind some of tech's most creative innovations and in-depth features on innovation and sustainability.

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