How Aruba helped Columbus Crew in automating stadium operations

Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company (HPE), announced that Columbus Crew, the Major League Soccer (MLS) champion in 2020, has deployed an Aruba ESP converged wired and wireless network to automate stadium operations such as ticketing and security, as well as provide Wi-Fi.
Aruba Networks for enterprises
The Crew’s new Lower.com Field sits on 12 acres, accommodates more than 20,000 fans and features a 62,000-square-foot public plaza equipped with a 14’x24’ video board to host concerts, watch parties and other public events.

The Crew deployed a combination of Aruba’s wired and wireless solutions that support the stadium’s technology-enabled amenities, including Wi-Fi connectivity, opt-in facial recognition ticketing, Evolv Express security screening, and mobile ordering and cashless payment throughout the venue.

“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,” Brandon Covert, vice president of Information Technology for Haslam Sports Group, said.

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 their tickets with one glance versus scanning each separate ticket, it creates a much smoother process,” said Covert. “The fan 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.”

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.

The Crew has 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.