The biggest threat to NFL stadium attendance is how awesome it is to watch games at home. In an effort to keep seats full at stadiums, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants to make the stadium experience more like the home experience by having Wi-Fi at every venue.
Goodell talked about that on Tuesday at the league meetings. Via Nate Davis at The Huddle, here's Goodell on enhancing the stadium experience:
"We believe that it is important to get technology into our stadiums. We have made the point repeatedly that the experience at home is outstanding, and we have to compete with that in some fashion by making sure that we create the same kind of environment in our stadiums." [...]
"We want [fans] to have access to the same information. Have access to our Red Zone, have access to highlights, be able to engage in social media, including fantasy football. When you come to our stadium we want to make it a great experience."
He's right; every stadium should have Wi-Fi available to fans. But not because it's going to replicate what it's like to watch a game at home ‒ that's impossible ‒ but because it's 2012 and so few of us are Luddites.
I think the commissioner is going the wrong way on this one. You're not going to compete with my living room by trying to be like my living room. You can't give me a couch, a remote, a laptop, a box of Cheez-Its, reasonably priced alcohol and the ability to curse freely from time to time. So don't try.
What the stadium experience offers is that it's not like home. You share your stadium experience with 70,000 like-minded people. You chant together, you cheer together, you feel a part of a community. You hug and high-five strangers. That's what the stadium gives you.
Believe me, If I want it bad enough, I'll find a way to get a fantasy update. If the stadium experience is right, however, I'll be perfectly content to worry about my fantasy team when I get home.
You want more, better-trained, friendlier ushers. You want more security and stadium staff nearby. You want unpleasant and disruptive fans kept away from kids and families. You want well-monitored, safe, fun tailgating areas and activities before and after the game.
Of course, there's one issue that trumps everything, but it won't be changed, so I don't know if it's even worth mentioning ‒ money. If tickets weren't so expensive, if parking wasn't $50, if a Diet Coke wasn't $6, and there weren't so many TV timeouts allowing the league to rake in additional money, then the stadium experience would be far more attractive. But none of those things will be changing.
But there is still plenty of room to give fans a better gameday experience, especially considering how much it costs.