After several years in the making, the Dallas Cowboys' $1.1 billion football stadium is finally ready for its worldwide close-up Sunday night, when the Green Bay Packers take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
Pete Walsh, the Dallas Cowboys' head of technology, gave Wired.com a sneak peek at the preparations and effort going into Sunday's game, which will cater to more than 100,000 fans inside the stadium as well as hundreds of millions watching on TV around the world. To that end, Cowboys Stadium (which opened less than two years ago) has fashioned a 5,000-square-foot data center, built with the help of HP and the team's IT staff.
"When we started this process back in 2004, we were able to meet with different vendors and see their road maps for where technology was going to be in five or more years," Walsh told Wired.com, "so we were able to take advantage of where technology was going to be, rather than where it was."
Walsh and his crew of 20 technicians can now keep tabs on every electronically controlled aspect of stadium operations, including concessions, merchandise, ticket scanning and the 3,000 IPTVs that broadcast throughout the stadium and the adjoining area, thanks to a thousand antennas on the grounds. Helping centralize that effort are about 500 HP servers tucked away in a massive server room 22 feet below land level still almost 30 feet above field level, a topographical consideration made to combat potential catastrophes like flooding. (And, of course, they've got multiple-redundancy protections in place in case that doeshappen.)
One of the largest pieces to fall into place was enhancing the stadium's cell signals. Every major carrier, including AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and Metro PCS, is providing extra signal power so there's no downtime for fans. Everyone in attendance will also have free Wi-Fi.
"Essentially, every event we've had here the last two years has been a dress rehearsal for the next event," Walsh said. In addition to hosting Cowboys games, the stadium has been witness to large-scale concerts, college football bowl games and the 2010 NBA All-Star Game, which drew more than 108,713 fans. Officials expect Sunday's Super Bowl to be the third-largest game in the stadium's brief history, behind that All-Star Game and the inaugural Cowboys game from Opening Day 2009 - which drew 105,121.
And, of course, this being the first Super Bowl since the introduction of the iPad, fans can not only bring along their favorite Apple-made tablet - the NFL assured Wired.com there will be no restrictions on bringing the device into the stadium - but they can also use the NFL's official Super Bowl app, which features virtual 3-D navigation of Cowboys Stadium, as well as a facilities guide that may prove useful for those not wanting to waste a nanosecond searching out the nearest beer stand.