Lisa Knights Reveals the Unexpected Innovation Behind a Stadium

Our partnership with Ashton Gate Stadium, in Bristol, to install our cutting edge networking technology NetOS®, means that we work closely with Bristol Sport. Lisa Knights, Chief of Communications at Bristol Sport, sat down with us to chat about how stadium design and re-design has changed over the years, and the first thing to consider when building a stadium. The answer may surprise you…

How is the partnership with Zeetta Networks developing Ashton Gate Stadium?

We are all impressed with the gradual process towards our goal of creating a truly programmable stadium. The team here are mindful that what we’re doing together is ground-breaking, and it is excellent to see Zeetta Networks testing the technology at every stage to make sure that it is right for the stadium. The collaboration process has been remarkable: you are listening to what the fans want, testing progress with them, and then getting feedback on how they are using the technology. This phased approach is beneficial for us; what you wanted at one point can evolve into something else that you want at the end! Having a flexible system that can morph into something else is important. We didn’t realise that it could do that! Nothing is off limits!

How has the use of Ashton Gate Stadium changed in the last few years?

The rebuild has completely changed the way that we use the stadium, moving into a multi-use venue for multiple sports and multiple events. From our point of view, the whole point of the redevelopment was to create space that was perfectly designed for both conference and events, so that we could do both.

Ashton Gate

What is Ashton Gate doing that’s challenging preconceptions of what a stadium is?

Instead of following the industry standards, we have changed the expectations of what a stadium can offer. Some parts of Ashton Gate Stadium were a complete blank piece of paper, and so we could design certain parts such as the Lansdown Stand. The column spacing has been created exactly so you can fit pop up conference stands without any gaps; the Lansdown restaurant is incredibly long, but has a cantilevered roof without pillars, so you gain a clear view of the entire site. It is these design touches that prove a stadium can be a venue, an event space, a conference centre, and even a wedding venue! Ashton Gate can be whatever we want it to be.

You must remember that we did a rebuild while we were still an operating stadium, so the biggest headaches that we faced were practical – and of course, coincided with the most successful seasons for our football and rugby teams in years! Being a construction site Monday to Friday and then handing the stadium over to the teams was quite a challenge.

What do fans want now that’s different?

That depends which fans you ask! The most important thing is having a connected stadium. The demands of consuming media whilst at events is exponentially growing: no one just sits and watches a match, they are playing with their phone, interacting on social media, reading news content, browsing a club site. We’re also seeing changes in the way that fans purchase things. Your phone can purchase something wherever you are – order drinks from your seat, buy a shirt off the person who’s just scored a goal, or a ticket for the next match before this one ends. All of this comes down to being connected.

What is the one thing that a stadium, in your opinion, should be investing in?

Connectivity: everything hinges on it, but beyond that we need to think more about data which is why our partnership with Zeetta Networks is so vital. The flexibility of data content and access is key for our media and communications. If I want to cut to a highlights page, I want access to the video footage immediately, almost like a traditional TV news studio. There can be tens of thousands of people who need to access data at the same time, without clogging up the network. We are moving towards this thanks to the installation of NetOS® technology, and we are only just starting to see the possibilities.

Want to see our NetOS® technology in action at Ashton Gate Stadium? Get in touch now.