MLS’s Columbus Crew Scores with an Aruba ESP Network for a Seamless, Inviting and Dynamic Fan Journey at Lower.com Field

  • Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company
  • 10.05.21
Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company announced that Columbus Crew, the Major League Soccer (MLS) reigning champion, has deployed an Aruba ESP converged wired and wireless network to streamline and automate stadium operations such as ticketing and security, as well as provide reliable, high-performing Wi-Fi and new matchday experiences to fans.

The Crew’s new Lower.com Field sits on 12 acres, accommodates more than 20,000 fans and also features a 62,000-square-foot public plaza equipped with a 14’x24’ video board to host concerts, watch parties and other public events.

With the vision to create a next-generation seamless fan journey from ticket purchase to the parking lot and through the stadium gates, the Crew deployed a combination of Aruba’s wired and wireless solutions that support the stadium’s technology-enabled amenities, including pervasive Wi-Fi connectivity, opt-in facial recognition ticketing, Evolv Express security screening, and mobile ordering and cashless payment throughout the venue.

“One of the first things that we really focused on is providing a great connectivity experience, not only in the seats, but everywhere in the stadium,” said Brandon Covert, vice president of Information Technology for Haslam Sports Group. “At the gates, when there are 12,000 people waiting to get in and they’re trying to pull up their tickets, or when walking through the concourses at halftime among 20,000 people, it is a very challenging environment for live venues. That is one of the major reasons we pushed really hard towards a very robust Aruba infrastructure.”

The Crew’s opt-in facial recognition system is a unique ingress process that starts with ticketing. Fans can log into their ticket account, take a selfie photo and link that picture to their account. When they arrive at Lower.com Field, a Wicket kiosk connected to the same wireless network identifies the fan’s face and corresponding tickets on their account. Alternatively, fans can use the traditional Ticketmaster barcode scan on their phone.

“The beauty with facial recognition is fans can redeem all of their tickets with one glance versus scanning each separate ticket, it creates a much smoother process,” said Covert. “The fan just walks up and takes about a second to look at the Wicket kiosk and their admitted group can walk right through the gates. This technology has cut the time it takes to get into the stadium by more than 50 percent. When it comes to funnelling thousands of fans into the stadium at the same time, this adds up to significant time savings.”

Hyper-Converged HPE Aruba Infrastructure

At the former Crew venue (Historic Crew Stadium), the IT team managed disparate parallel overlapping networks in one building. One of their operational goals for Lower.com Field was to converge everything not only to one network, but extend it all the way through their technology stack for a hyper-converged technology infrastructure.

“We wanted to go with this hyper-converged environment and really push the limits and that led us towards the Aruba and HPE solution over competitors that don't have that whole breadth of hyper-converged all the way including compute, storage, switching, and more,” said Covert.

In collaboration with trusted technology partner IBM iX, the Crew selected and deployed a future-ready wireless network comprised of Aruba Wi-Fi 6 indoor access points (APs), outdoor APs, and mobility controllers. For wired networking, the Crew implemented Aruba’s access switches at the edge and CX Series switches for aggregation and in the data center. Additionally, the Crew uses ClearPass for network access control (NAC) and policy management, and AirWave for network management. They have also implemented NetEdit for coordinating switch configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting.

“It was important for us to make network management simple because we're a smaller team that handles our technology functions internally. We needed a solution that we could maintain and operate easily, and we found that in the Aruba solution,” said Covert.

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company, is a global leader in secure, intelligent edge-to-cloud networking solutions that use AI to automate the network, while harnessing data to drive powerful business outcomes. With Aruba ESP (Edge Services Platform) and as-a-service options, Aruba takes a cloud-native approach to helping customers meet their connectivity, security, and financial requirements across campus, branch, data center, and remote worker environments, covering all aspects of wired, wireless LAN, and wide area networking (WAN).


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