The Chicago Cubs announced this week that they’ve chosen Extreme Networks to install a high-density Wi-Fi network at the landmark Wrigley Field.

The Wi-Fi installation is part of a $750 million project launched in 2014 which includes a wired LAN network that was recently installed throughout the 103-year-old ballpark and back office areas, including the 30,000-square-foot underground clubhouse. The second phase includes installing the newly announced Wi-Fi network throughout the stadium and clubhouse and at The Park, a 50,000-square-foot open-air entertainment venue that will open later this year adjacent to Wrigley Field.

“The current plan is to have high-density fan-facing Wi-Fi for the start of the 2018 season,” said Andrew McIntyre, vice president of technology for the Chicago Cubs.

This project, which is called the 1060 Project, includes structural upgrades, improved player facilities, new fan amenities, and entertainment attractions such as The Park. As part of the installation, Extreme Networks will install more than 1,000 access points throughout Wrigley Field and The Park.

The Cubs clubhouse and The Park will be outfitted with Extreme’s flow-based 802.11ac Wave 2 technology, including 50 new access points that deliver upgraded speed, as well as additional capacity and enhanced security. Extreme Networks partnered with PCM for consulting and project management help with the planning and implementation of the Wi-Fi network at Wrigley Field.

SEE: Stadiums race to digitize: How sports teams are scrambling to keep Millennials coming to games (TechRepublic free PDF download)

“Extreme is thrilled to work closely with the Chicago Cubs and PCM on The 1060 Project. It was both challenging and exciting to create a customized implementation strategy that would support the one-of-a-kind underground clubhouse, ensuring that coaches, players, and staff would have their wireless needs met without interruption. We look forward to continuing this partnership and extending our efforts into Wrigley’s in-stadium seats to provide even better Wi-Fi support for fans,” said John Brams, director of sports and entertainment for Extreme Networks.

The deployment news comes at a time when sports stadiums throughout the world are adding high-density Wi-Fi connectivity to keep up with fans’ expectations. Sports teams had an eye-opening realization a few years ago when they realized if they can’t provide a better in-house experience at stadiums that fans would stay home and watch the game in front of their own flat-screen TV, rather than spend hundreds of dollars for a lesser experience at the venue.

As a result, the NFL asked all of its stadiums to add Wi-Fi by 2016, and other venues were quick to follow suit. Major sporting events are constantly creating new data usage records as fans consume bandwidth as quickly as it can be installed. Part of the demand for bandwidth is because of the larger, higher-quality images sent via the latest smartphones and social media video usage.

For instance, at Super Bowl 51, there were 11.8 terabytes of data transmitted over the newly installed Wi-Fi network at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. Social media and streaming video from Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram, and Twitter accounted for nearly 12% of the data, at 1.7 TB. This is an increase of 55% over social media and streaming during Super Bowl 50 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

The demand for data usage is growing at stadiums, and not just for football, baseball, and basketball, but also at concerts and other events. Despite the age of Wrigley Field, it’s joining the fray to provide better connectivity for its fans, which is essential to stay relevant in this digital age.

The top 3 takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. Extreme Networks will be installing high-density Wi-Fi at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
  2. The high-density deployment is part of $750 million in upgrades for the landmark ballpark.
  3. Data usage demands continue to increase for fans at venues around the country, with Super Bowl 51 making digital history with 11.8 terabytes of data being consumed.

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