On a Friday night in late October, some 30 miles north of Dallas, in Frisco, Texas, The Ford Center at The Star, a state-of-the-art 12,000-seat, indoor multipurpose events center and training facility for the Dallas Cowboys, welcomed high school football players with their faces, names and team footage flashing across a huge Panasonic 4K razor-sharp LED videoboard above the main entrance. "Relevant and rich content on digital displays has become part of the American sports culture, with people looking for more immersive experiences and seeking to be excited by the action on the field and by new forms of audiovisual entertainment, said Panasonic Enterprise Solutions Company Vice President Sales & Marketing Matt Ritter, pointing to the 2,270 square-foot high-resolution display.
Courting young audiences
Every Friday night during high school football season, The Ford Center's indoor football arena is turned over to one of eight different Frisco high schools for home games, and it's like scene out of Friday Night Lights, the TV drama about a small-town in Texas and local citizens' passion for high school football. As the thousands of people who love Texas high school football jostle in to fill the seats, they can't miss Panasonic's striking LED pylons with advertisements inviting them to grab a bite, or snap up some memorabilia. The eight pylons--each one about 120 square feet--are programmed to feature information about the complex, the games and corporate partners in The Star.
"As the Dallas Cowboys, our team sponsors are a key lifeline for the sustainability of our franchise," said Jerry Jones, Jr., Executive Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer of the Dallas Cowboys, in a statement, when The Ford Center opened in 2016. "When you set out to build a world-class facility, you attract world-class partners. The Star will allow these partners to activate their brand with us in ways never before seen in professional sports, let alone at the high school level. Ford, Nike, the Texas Lottery, Whataburger and Panasonic all played a role in elevating this facility to provide an unforgettable experience for the students of Frisco Independent School District," he said.
Multitasking and multipurpose venues
The Ford Center is one part of The Star, a 91-acre campus designed to offer an experience for fans in Texas and worldwide to look inside the operation of the Dallas Cowboys. Forbes ranks the Dallas Cowboys as the world's most valuable sports brand, and clearly, The Star is a way to expand the brand's reach. The Star hosts the franchise's new world headquarters, a sold-out private members club overlooking the team's practice field with multiple dining options and a rooftop pool. There's also Cowboys Fit, a luxury health club, situated next to the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders training area. Soon the sports-entertainment district will host satellite operations of some of the hottest restaurants in Texas, a four-star hotel, and a healthcare center focused on sports medicine.
Panasonic technology is everywhere in The Star
From every angle, visitors are beckoned and thrilled by sharp, gorgeous screens, including dynamic, vertical pylon LED video displays at the grand entrance. "The overall response to The Star has been incredible--it's really blown people away," says Chad Estis, Executive Vice President of Business Operations for the Dallas Cowboys. "The element that visitors most often mention is the outdoor screens in the plaza. It's like our own mini-Times Square."
To ensure that The Star wowed visitors from day one, the Cowboys partnered with Panasonic to design and install a range of LED and flat-panel displays, kiosks and other cutting-edge technology exclusively for the new campus. The Cowboys aim to harness the facility's unique allure to bring in fans, community members and free agents dovetails with Panasonic's goal to be the technology partner of the future. It's is all part of Panasonic's B2B solutions mission--to be an indispensable tech partner for customers, creating a better life and a better world together. For Panasonic, sports and entertainment are strategic markets.
More than 200 Panasonic flat panel displays and monitors are situated throughout the complex. The Star's office spaces and conference rooms are also stocked with Panasonic projectors and displays; the concession stands feature digital menus showcasing mouth-watering treats. In the outdoor plaza, interactive kiosks have been loaded with fun, free games that encourage fans to engage with their environment in exciting and novel ways.
Wayfinding and content platforms
"The Dallas Cowboys' Star is the future of professional sports-anchored entertainment districts," said Panasonic's Ritter, who oversaw the design and construction of more than 9,500 square feet of digital communications--from the high-res highway welcome signs, each about 480 square feet--to the vertical pylons to the digital displays--that provide a wayfinding system, and an overall connected experience with information on players, Fantasy Football stats action from the field and advertising messages. Miss a play during a game? You're bound to catch it in crystal clear detail on the huge 1,770 square foot interior LED videoboard that brings to life the action in sharp, crisp color. Curious about draft picks? Chances are good that two prominent interior fascia LED displays--each 450 square feet--will have info on players and accomplishments.
Much of the work for the Cowboys came together at Panasonic's Coppell-based manufacturing and engineering facility, which opened in February 2016. The sweeping 135,000 square foot flex-use building in Coppell, Texas was designed and built for fabrication and constructing projects including large LED screens, Channel Letters and custom signage projects. One of the most distinctive features is a 200-foot-long manufacturing bay. Two ten-ton cranes with a 25-foot hook height dominate the room that stretches to 400 square feet of assembly space. The true benefit of the new facility is bringing it all in-house - industry-leading engineering, quality control and manufacturing expertise, as well as on-site services to expedite customer service and support.
Cutting edge tools and talent
An arsenal of cutting-edge tools accurately and efficiently forms, shears, punches, and saws material, putting the facility leaps ahead of the competition in term of capabilities. On-site is a new CNC plasma and oxy-fuel plate burn table. This best-in-the-industry cutting tool uses a laser to vaporize material with extreme accuracy. The result is the cleanest cut currently possible. Effortlessly handling complex shapes and geometry, the technology gives smooth corners, no undercuts, and a better fit, form and function for assembly.
Once complete, screens are tested directly in the video assembly area. The area is equipped with the electrical capacity to light up and stream graphics on displays of any size. This allows the team to ensure everything meets customer expectations prior to shipping the finished product.
Connecting with fans before, during and after the game
It's clear that the kind of huge, custom videoboards Panasonic is building at Coppell that engage fans in the games and bring them information about the sports complex--point to the excitement around a new kind of mixed use development. The Dallas Cowboys' Star is a striking example of how professional and college sports organizations are finding new ways to connect with audiences with specially developed real estate that builds on excitement before and after the game, and finds new ways to make use of football, baseball and other athletic venues.
Across the U.S., athletic-oriented entertainment districts are rising, as businesses, real estate companies and government officials rethink planning to bring together places where people play, work and live. In Ohio, there's the Arena District in Columbus. In Michigan, at the sport-entertainment-focused District Detroit, a stadium opening later this year will be shared by the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons. In Los Angeles, formerly blighted land in holds the thriving Microsoft Theater, formerly known as the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, complex and the adjacent Staples Center where Panasonic delivered a unique technically sophisticated center hung display in a short period of time. Residential and retail surrounds the sports and entertainment venues, and plans call for a $1 billion mixed-use area with residential towers, a boutique hotel, and additional high-end retail.
Combining sports, entertainment and hospitality in one place makes sense. After all, in the NFL, there are only ten home games in each season. Teams in Major League Baseball play at home 81 times a year. So what's an arena to do with those hundreds of other days when the place is empty?
In future features, this series on sports-entertainment districts will look at the Atlanta Braves SunTrust Park, scheduled to open in April, and the growing entertainment district anchored by the Sacramento Kings' the Golden 1 Center.
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