For the past several years I have begged, pleaded, and generally made a nuisance of myself to the Arizona Diamondbacks asking them to please install Wi-Fi at Chase Field. With the proliferation of smart phones, tablets, and other devices it seemed natural to have network access from my stadium seat.
My desire was two-fold. First it would allow me to access the Internet and look up some obscure statistic to settle an argument between two fans. Second, it would allow me to log in and respond to email and other work-related applications so that I could still be at a Diamondbacks game when I should be working. (That last part is secret so please don’t tell my boss, he thinks I am at the office 24-hours a day.)
So when I heard the Diamondbacks were not only installing Wi-Fi in Chase Field but also coming up with an Internet Portal I was extremely excited. Finally Chase Field would move into the 21st Century.
During the first home stand of the year the Diamondbacks opened up the Wi-Fi network aptly named attwifi to allow ticket holders to attach to the network. During those first nine games the team used the information gathered to tweak the network making it more robust for a variety of crowd sizes.
With last night’s game the team officially introduced the Wi-Fi network sponsored by AT&T and additionally introduced a new portal called digitaldbacks.com. This portal is only available to people logged into the Chase Field Wi-Fi network and will provide information on the stadium and the game in progress.
Shortly after the introduction of the iPhone several of the more geeky fans began talking about how great it would be to have a Diamondbacks app that would allow us to check out information about the stadium and the game in progress and even see what specials there were at the Team Shop and concessionaires.
We shared that vision with anyone we could find that would listen without their eyes glazing over immediately. The problem with this vision is that we built up in our minds what the application should include to the point that no software or portal could possible compare or meet our expectations.
Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) controls all electronic content for MLB and was responsible for creating the portal. Rather than attempting to stretch the boundaries of fan experience they decided to play it safe and create the portal to the least common denominator.
Instead of worry about clients for each type of smart phone or device MLBAM decided to design the application to be browser based. I understand the design reasoning behind it but the execution of the portal is not much better than the mobile AZDiamondbacks.com web site.
The user interface is nominal and the amount of unique content over what you can get on the regular site is minimal. You can of course get the current score, the roster, transactions, and a schedule of upcoming and previously played games.
You can also send a message to security and get a listing of food vendors within Chase Field. Beyond that the team is touting video replay but as of the first game the video was no different than what you can get through MLB GameDay.
I was anticipating this as being a way that the Diamondbacks could circumvent the rule where they cannot show close plays on dbTV by instead showing the controversial plays on a mobile device. Instead the replays are limited to great catches or scoring plays and the best they could do was get the replay within 1-2 minutes rather than real-time as fans get when watching on television.
Using the iPhone, iPad, or other smart device and creating a specific app MLBAM could have integrated their At Bat 11 application and use location services to notify fans of deals close to where they are sitting and give them access to social media such as Twitter for game day chats.
They could also have provided access to online coupons to the closest team shop or concession stand driving business to the vendors or perhaps even adding the ability to interact with vendors to have food or merchandise delivered to your seat. While that may be possible ultimately with the web browser portal it will never be location aware and hence the user interface will not be as elegant.
An app could also have included a scorekeeping component to either allow fans to keep score or follow along with the official scorekeeper. The browser portal could never be configured to allow that level of interaction.
So while I applaud the Diamondbacks and MLBAM for trying to create a useful portal I found myself severely underwhelmed and spent much of the game assessing where I would have made changes to make the user experience more immersive. Hopefully MLBAM will illicit feedback and enhance or rework the offering to be more cutting edge as users have come to expect in the mobile computing environment.