Fan Engagement Model is a Winner at Always-On Stadium

2500+ Employees
With Avaya, we found the RIGHT SOLUTION at the right cost. And we didn’t have to spend millions to do so.
 
– Pierre-Eric Belzile, Vice President, Information and Communication Technology, Canadiens Hockey Club – evenko

Benefits

Improved Customer Service
Network Scalability

New Fan Engagement Model is a Winner at Always-On Stadium

It was in the middle of an event at Montreal’s Bell Centre when Pierre-Eric Belzile got the call. One of the event organizers needed immediate private access to the arena’s Wi-Fi.
 
Belzile wasn’t anxious for a moment. On the fly, the head of technology at the events center quickly added a service set identifier (SSID), giving the individual password-protected access to the center’s wireless network.
 
“We created a new SSID for him in five minutes. That’s how flexible our network is,” says Belzile, Vice President, Information and Communication Technology at the Canadiens Hockey Club – evenko.  “And it’s stable. We’re not scared at all to work on it – even during events.”
 
It’s just the kind of agility the Bell Centre needs to accommodate 175 events per year, from Montreal Canadiens professional hockey games to U2 concerts to Disney on Ice. Sometimes Belzile has a ‘heads-up’ about the performers’ technology needs before they arrive; often, he doesn’t know until the day of the show.
 
“We need to adapt to different technology requirements every day and be sure that it all runs smoothly,” Belzile says. “We need a really flexible, secure and powerful network to handle anything that comes up.”
 

Goal: Ramping Up Capacity

Montreal’s Bell Centre hosts one million visitors a year, up to 21,000 people at a time – making it the largest hockey arena in North America and the third busiest event center in the world. The configurable, multi-event complex morphs to accommodate whatever takes place that day.
 

“Fans want to do what they usually do, which is share what they’re experiencing with their friends. 
We have to be able to support them with anything they want to do.”
 
 – Pierre-Eric Belzile, Vice President, Information and Communication Technology, Canadiens Hockey Club – evenko
 

Bell Centre

Performers expect nothing less than the latest technology to execute the vision for their shows or to conduct business while they’re there. Likewise, fans expect to be able to share their experiences on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites.
 
“Fans want to do what they usually do, which is share what they’re experiencing with their friends,” comments Belzile. “We have to be able to support them with anything they want to do.”
 
Until recently, the center’s wireless network simply wasn’t powerful enough to roll out to fans. The facility needed higher capacity to achieve its goals of social-, mobile- and internet-based fan engagement and other business objectives, such as digital advertising, anywhere point-of-sale transactions and IP video surveillance .
 

An Engaged Stadium

For more than a decade, the Bell Centre has relied on Avaya for network connectivity. Once again, the organization turned to Avaya for the next phase in its unified digital strategy: upgrading the network and fortifying wireless capabilities.
 
“The number of digital assets we’re installing on the network, and guests requiring the network, is growing very rapidly,” remarks Belzile. “With Avaya, we found the right solution at the right cost. And we didn’t have to spend millions to do so.”
 
Working closely with the Bell Centre, Avaya architected a virtualized, flexible network to support the event center’s many goals, including high-capacity, better security for wireless access, fast Wi-Fi connection times and multicast support for IP video streams. The Bell Centre runs Avaya Fabric Connect at the core of the network, with the key features of Virtual IST, IP shortcuts and IP multicast to simplify and ensure a resilient and high-performance network – allowing the Bell Centre to concentrate on providing the ultimate fan experience. 
 
Avaya’s wireless technology and solutions allow the Bell Center to provide Olympic-quality coverage that enables fans, staff and players to be connected at key moments. Nearly 500 wireless access points with double radios ensure that visitors get Wi-Fi no matter where they are in the facility. 
 

“Now, we just bring the laptops and scanners we need to specific gates – anywhere in the building – to process ticketless guests.”
 
– Pierre-Eric Belzile, Vice President, Information and Communication Technology, Canadiens Hockey Club – evenko
 

Bell Centre

Belzile wanted a completely open wireless network – with no password and no landing page. Visitors can simply connect, and they do. In the 2014-2015 season, around 20 percent of guests at one event – with approximately 4,000 smart phones – jumped onto the network, pushing usage to around 250GB in a two-hour event timeframe.
 

Anywhere Connectivity

Ubiquitous wireless also supports the center’s “ticketless” entry, a method requested by a number of performers to ensure that fans are able to buy tickets at face value, rather than at inflated resale prices. With ticketless entry, event attendees simply present the credit card they used to buy their tickets and a valid form of identification. A gate attendant swipes the card to verify the tickets, and the guest is admitted and on their way.
 
“It’s a way for artists to be sure that their fans are the ones coming for the show, so we have to be flexible enough to accommodate ticketless entry at some doors,” Belzile observes. “Now, we just bring the laptops and scanners we need to specific gates – anywhere in the building – to process ticketless guests.”
 
The same goes for point-of-sale systems. Vendors can set up anywhere within the facility, helping maximize their revenue. 
 

No Limits

Belzile feels confident that the network can handle the center’s vision for the future as well. With these new capabilities, the Bell Centre teamed with Avaya to create an application for fans of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team. In this fast-paced sport, fans could easily miss a goal if they leave their seats to grab a beer or a bite to eat. 
 
With the app, fans can order refreshments and pay right from their seats, and have it delivered without missing a single play. They can also find maps of the stadium, purchase tickets for future games, and learn more about the team and the players. 
 
 

“It’s so easy to manage, I can do it myself, alone.”
 
 Pierre-Eric Belzile, Vice President, Information and Communication Technology, Canadiens Hockey Club – evenko
 

Belzile also looks forward to expanding security on the strength of the network. Currently, door access on luxury suites is wirelessly managed, and several security cameras run over the network. Next, the center will expand that to 250 multicast cameras. For Belzile, IP video surveillance brings greater capabilities to search for footage and higher quality images.
 
“IP multicast is one of the reasons why we went with Avaya, because it’s so easy to implement and use,” Belzile says.
 
Higher bandwidth also enables the Bell Centre to add more digital advertising screens, and increase this major source of revenue. 
 
“We run on one, strong, flexible network for all the digital assets we have at the Bell Centre,” he comments. “Regardless of the operation, the Avaya network can handle it. I don’t see any limitations.”
 

One-Man Show

For Belzile, the beauty of the network is not just in its capabilities, but in the ease of management for him as the center’s only IT professional. 
 
“What we needed was a really flexible, secure and easy-to-manage network,’ remarks Belzile. “It’s so easy to manage, I can do it myself, alone.”
 
“I like coming in in the morning because it’s a big toy and I’m pleased to play with it,” Belzile says. “We have zero people working on the networking team at the Bell Centre. It’s just me and good support from my Avaya team.”
 

“IP multicast is one of the reasons why we went with Avaya, because it’s so easy to implement and use.”
 
– Pierre-Eric Belzile, Vice President, Information and Communication Technology, Canadiens Hockey Club – evenko
 

The Bell Centre is the largest capacity NHL arena, with 21,273 seats.

CUSTOMER PROFILE
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  • Headquarters:

  • Canada

  • # Employees:

  • 450

The Bell Centre is a 21,273 seat sports and entertaintment complex in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It attracts over a million visitors, and is the site for hundreds of events anually, including home games for the local NHL team, the Montreal Canadiens.

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“Now, we just bring the laptops and scanners we need to specific gates – anywhere in the building – to process ticketless guests.”

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  • Pierre-Eric Belzile

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