High-Tech $100 Mil Pro Soccer Stadium Makes Its Debut

SAN JOSE (BCN) — The San Jose Earthquakes soccer team held a crowded ribbon-cutting ceremony today to open the privately-funded $100 million, 18,000-seat Avaya Stadium, the first team-owned venue since the professional club started playing in San Jose in 1974.

The open-air stadium is named after a team sponsor, Santa Clara-based software firm Avaya, which is providing high-tech flourishes such as a mobile phone app to pay for tickets, food and parking and “fan engagement walls” that use cloud technology to display HD videos, live Twitter feeds and player statistics.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo was one of the speakers at the ceremony with Earthquakes president Dave Kaval, Avaya executives Kevin Kennedy and Andy Cunningham and nine City Council members outside the stadium at 1123 Coleman Ave., directly across from Mineta San Jose International Airport.

“We’re here to commemorate a permanent home for soccer here in Silicon Valley (and) to commemorate the day when San Jose officially became cool,” Liccardo said.

Liccardo recalled when he first began watching Earthquakes games at the age of six in the 1970s at San Jose State University’s Spartan Stadium, one of the rented venues the team has used over the years, including mostly recently 52-year-old Buck Shaw Stadium in San Jose.

The mayor turned and thanked Keith Wolff, son of Earthquakes co-owner Lew Wolff, and team co-owner John Fisher for their “willingness to take a risk on San Jose — $100 million is no small amount of risk. We try not to take those risks here in the city of San Jose, but we are glad you are willing to take those risks.”

The stadium has what team officials claim is the second-widest LED scoreboard screen in California and the “largest outdoor bar in North America” beneath the scoreboard.

The architecture is described as “European style” for its open-air design and overhanging awnings on the tops of its steep seating areas to deflect crowd noise.

In addition to the 18,000 seats, the stadium has 12 luxury suites that are sold out, bought mainly by businesses and individuals, according to Wolff.

Redwood paneling used on the suites, the scoreboard bar, concession stands and press box was reclaimed from wood dismantled from Hangar One at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Wolff said.

The stadium uses an open, horseshoe-shaped design to take advantage of the views of planes landing at the airport and the Santa Clara Valley’s mountains in the distance, he said.

“We really tried to keep it intimate,” Wolff said. “I think that is one of the most important things about a venue. We also did some pretty different things in terms of putting a lot of seating right on the field, with the suites. As you walk through the concourse you can see the field, which is very rare in soccer.”

People on their way to the stadium on Coleman also will be able to see the grass field and other parts of the stadium, he said.

“We wanted to make it so when you drive by you could see the interior of the stadium,” he said. “It’ll be a lot of fun, you’ll see the activity.”

He said he and his father Lew, who co-owns the Oakland A’s baseball team with Fisher, started the process of building the stadium about six years ago with the city and “it’s amazing to see it come to life.”

Cunningham, who is Avaya’s chief marketing officer, said the stadium is the first in Major League Soccer to be cloud-enabled, with Wi-Fi and fabric networking for data delivery.

The free, high-speed Wi-Fi is already online at the stadium and the 12 luxury suites have Avaya communications technology for business meetings on game days, she said.

Once a fan signs on to the Wi-Fi with their mobile device at the stadium, Avaya’s animated “fan engagement specialist” character called “Ava” welcomes them, then they have access to downloading the stadium’s app to order things to buy and use Twitter to converse with other fans, she said.

The “fan engagement walls,” tall video screens placed in various parts of the stadium, will show videos of players, updated player stats and live Tweets by fans, she said.

All of it will be delivered by Avaya’s cloud technology sent wirelessly from remote servers, she said.

Avaya officials said the stadium’s technological features would be ready for the Earthquake’s first regular season game there against the Chicago Fire on March 22.

Tickets for the March 22 season opener will go for from $20 to $140, according to the team’s website.

The Earthquakes will play the team’s final pre-season game Saturday at Avaya Stadium before about 10,000 fans against the Los Angeles Galaxy, team officials said.

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