From pre-paid parking to online transportation and traffic monitoring to mobile tickets, IT-enabled innovations are helping Hawkeye fans avoid game-day headaches. They’re also providing Athletics staff with data to develop additional enhancements.
“We try to anticipate what’s going to happen in the next three or four years,” says Eddie Etsey, director of information technology for Athletics. “Our goal is to make sure fans have the best possible game-day experience.”
Making predictions from parking purchases
For the first time last fall, Hawkeye football fans had the option of buying single game parking online when they purchased their tickets.
“This is one of the best technologies we implemented this year,” Etsey says. While it’s proven a boon for fans, it’s also provided new insight into traffic flow.
For example, athletics, parking, and security staff observe that fans who’ve pre-paid for parking tend to arrive a few hours later than those who pay on site. They can anticipate congestion around different lots and ramps, rerouting traffic as needed.
Tracking traffic and transport
Parking is just one area where cumulative and real-time data are streamlining operations and helping fans plan their schedules and travel options.
UI athletics and security staff partner with Waze, maker of the popular routing app, to monitor game-day traffic conditions. Last fall, Hawkeye football fans could do the same with special updates pushed to the Waze app and posted on the Athletics website and Twitter feeds.
For several years, Hawkeye Express riders have been able to track train arrivals using a dedicated mobile app developed at the UI. Etsey’s team works with mobile providers to prioritize signals from devices that share train locations, bypassing the network overloads common on football Saturdays.
Streamlining tickets and entry
When a game is about to begin, options like mobile passes and self-scan entrances help keep fans moving.
Fight for Iowa (FFI) mobile passes debuted for the 2017 Hawkeye football season. They’ve since expanded to include other sports, offering discounted admission to all home events.
Instead of paper tickets, FFI buyers present digital passes on their phones. Seats assignments change throughout the season, though users of passes purchased together always sit together. Event passes are transferrable.
“Electronic tickets probably won’t replace paper,” Etsey says. “Not everyone has a cell phone, and for some fans, holding a printed ticket is part of the experience.”
Paper and digital ticketholders alike soon may be able to scan their own tickets at stadium and arena entries. Last fall, Athletics piloted self-scan stations for premium services at Kinnick.
“It’s like scanning your own boarding pass at an airport gate,” Etsey said. If it proves popular with fans, the system will expand the number of scanning points and save a few seconds on each entry.
Anticipating what’s next
Athletics this year implemented a new point-of-service system at concession stands. For starters, it lets vendors chart how many hot dogs, pizzas, and other items are sold at each location. Looking forward, it could let fans get fed faster.
“We’re imagining a time when fans can order from their seats and get a text when their food is ready, or when they punch in orders at self-serve kiosks,” Etsey says. “We’d like to have more people making food and fewer people taking money.”