The Future of the Sports Stadium: Connected

An interesting piece in Bloomberg on the future of the sports stadiums in the United States and the rest of the world. Think Wi-Fi networks, apps, mobile food ordering, and shorter trips to the bathroom:

Sports lovers have already proved there’s an appetite for the connected stadium. As many as a quarter of attendees at Nets games connect to the Barclays Center’s wireless network, according to a spokeswoman. But getting them to download the team’s app to try out some of the in-house features has been a challenge. Jayne Bussman-Wise, the digital director of the Nets, says the team is promoting the app to season ticket holders and on the arena’s website, and adding exclusive features such as camera angles and seat upgrades to attract more fans.

The 49ers have big ideas, but many of them are still in the planning phase. For one, the team intends to create a feature in its app to allow users in the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara to see which of their friends are attending a game and where they’re sitting.

For his bathroom-line monitor, Garland hasn’t yet figured out which combination of connected devices and services will be used. The 49ers have looked at using cameras that would wirelessly report to a system that predicts the wait time, Garland says. The team is also exploring measuring traffic based on wireless signals from people’s mobile phones in a particular area, as many mapping services do to predict traffic on the road. There’s also a lower-tech solution, such as stationing attendants nearby equipped with iPads to monitor the line.

It sounds convincing, but it’s not going to make the trip to the stadium more popular if the ticket prices keep increasing every year.

Click through the article to read about how FIFA and the NHL are making advances as well.

On the Perils of Absorbed Device Users

A truly frightening story out of San Francisco, where passengers on a Muni train were so absorbed into their phones/tablets, that they failed to notice a stranger pulling out a gun next to them:

A man standing on a crowded Muni train pulls out a .45-caliber pistol.

He raises the gun, pointing it across the aisle, before tucking it back against his side. He draws it out several more times, once using the hand holding the gun to wipe his nose. Dozens of passengers stand and sit just feet away – but none reacts.

Their eyes, focused on smartphones and tablets, don’t lift until the gunman fires a bullet into the back of a San Francisco State student getting off the train.

Investigators say this scene was captured by a Muni camera on Sept. 23, the night Nikhom Thephakaysone, 30, allegedly killed 20-year-old Justin Valdez in an apparently random encounter.

For police and prosecutors, the details of the case were troubling – they believe the suspect had been out “hunting” for a stranger to kill – but so too was the train passengers’ collective inattention to imminent danger.

The D.A. said: “These people are in very close proximity with him, and nobody sees this. They’re just so engrossed, texting and reading and whatnot. They’re completely oblivious of their surroundings.”

I am not saying being more mindful of their surroundings would have stopped this crime, but this kind of absorption is mind-boggling to me. When I am on public transport, I make sure to look up and observe my surroundings every few minutes…


The Unfair San Francisco Housing and Rental Market

Writing in the London Review of Books, Rebecca Solnit expresses her discontent at the unstable housing market in San Francisco, driven by new money from the tech boom (Google, Facebook, etc.):

At the actual open houses, dozens of people who looked like students would show up with chequebooks and sheaves of resumés and other documents and pack the house, literally: it was like a cross between being at a rock concert without a band and the Hotel Rwanda. There were rumours that these young people were starting bidding wars, offering a year’s rent in advance, offering far more than was being asked. These rumours were confirmed. Evictions went back up the way they did during the dot-com bubble. Most renters have considerable protection from both rent hikes and evictions in San Francisco, but there are ways around the latter, ways that often lead to pitched legal battles, and sometimes illegal ones. Owners have the right to evict a tenant to occupy the apartment itself (a right often abused; an evicted friend of mine found a new home next door to his former landlord and is watching with an eagle eye to see if the guy really dwells there for the requisite three years). Statewide, the Ellis Act allows landlords to evict all tenants and remove the property from the rental market, a manoeuvre often deployed to convert a property to flats for sale. As for rent control, it makes many landlords restless with stable tenants, since you can charge anything you like on a vacant apartment – and they do.

A Latino who has been an important cultural figure for forty years is being evicted while his wife undergoes chemotherapy. One of San Francisco’s most distinguished poets, a recent candidate for the city’s poet laureate, is being evicted after 35 years in his apartment and his whole adult life here: whether he will claw his way onto a much humbler perch or be exiled to another town remains to be seen, as does the fate of a city that poets can’t afford. His building, full of renters for most or all of the past century, including a notable documentary filmmaker, will be turned into flats for sale. A few miles away, friends of friends were evicted after twenty years in their home by two Google attorneys, a gay couple who moved into two separate units in order to maximise their owner-move-in rights. Rental prices rose between 10 and 135 per cent over the past year in San Francisco’s various neighbourhoods, though thanks to rent control a lot of San Franciscans were paying far below market rates even before the boom – which makes adjusting to the new market rate even harder. Two much-loved used bookstores are also being evicted by landlords looking for more money; 16 restaurants opened last year in their vicinity. On the waterfront, Larry Ellison, the owner of Oracle and the world’s sixth richest man, has been allowed to take control of three city piers for 75 years in return for fixing them up in time for the 2013 America’s Cup; he will evict dozens of small waterfront businesses as part of the deal.

Evictions, foreclosures, and legal loopholes. This doesn’t sound like a city I’d want to inhabit. A must-read for perspective.

A Replacement Bridge in San Francisco

There is a strong likelihood of a large earthquake in the San Francisco Bay Area — about a 2-in-3 chance of magnitude 6.7 or larger before 2036, according to the United States Geological Survey. This New York Times piece discusses the building of the new Bay Bridge:

Unlike more conventional suspension bridges, in which parallel cables are slung over towers and anchored at both ends in rock or concrete, the 2,047-foot suspension bridge has only a single tower and a single cable that is anchored to the road deck itself, looping from the eastern end to the western end and back again. (With a conventional design it would have been extremely difficult to create an anchorage on the eastern end, in the middle of the bay.)

The new bridge is the longest self-anchored suspension bridge in the world, and it is asymmetrical, with one side of the span longer than the other. The choice of such a design raised the cost of the project significantly. In a conventional suspension bridge, the road deck is added last, hung from suspender cables attached to the main cables. In a self-anchored design, the deck has to be built first.

The eastern span replacement of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge has been under construction since 2002. Originally scheduled to open in 2007, it is now scheduled to open to traffic in 2013 at an estimated cost of $6.3 billion. A good interactive from the NYT is here. An incredibly detailed Wikipedia article is here.