A portion of a screenshot from the new Banc of California Stadium app created by ROK360 shows the stadium's Founders Club. (Courtesy LAFC)
The owners of Los Angeles Football Club were finding it difficult to see beyond the dust on the ground and the steel girders rising into the air during construction of their Banc of California Stadium. To remedy the problem, architecture firm Gensler brought on ROK360 to create an augmented reality/virtual reality app to help with visualization.
“They couldn’t understand how the fixtures and entertainment finishes were going to be seen,” said Sanjay Mistry, founder and CEO of California-based ROK360. “It was well-received to the point where the executive owners all loved the fact they could walk around these environments and see what they were looking like.”
That construction-minded tool led LAFC to move the AR/VR technology to its ticket sales team. Then earlier this month, the Banc of California Stadium app was released to the public, showing off not only premium ticket spaces for soccer match days but also configurations for anything from an educational conference to a bar mitzvah to a concert.
“We are finding more and more people want to know what something looks like or how they can experience it,” Mistry said. “It needs to happen for every event space.”
In the stadium app, users can navigate through spaces they may not have otherwise been to, whether a field-level club or the popular Sunset Deck that overlooks the L.A. Coliseum and Hollywood Hills. From the pitch to the premium club spaces, users can select different camera angles and toggle through configurations and setups of spaces.
Banc of California Stadium opened in April at a cost of $350 million. Selling premium LAFC space in its 32 suites, 80 loge boxes and 1,975 club seats for games is important — the club announced in May 2017 that it had sold out all of its premium seating for its inaugural season in the stadium this year — but so is the continuing effort to bring in additional events outside of a match day.
Since opening April 29, the stadium has hosted 140 nonsoccer events, from 20 people to 22,000.
“We believe we have some of the best premium spaces in the industry, and this is another tool to get it rolling,” said Benny Tran, senior vice president of development and strategy for LAFC. “We hope it picks up in getting our name and stadium out there.”
Tran said having that VR experience during construction allowed the entire team to see what a space would look like before it was built, right down to the place settings on a table or the art hanging on the wall. Having that flexibility in a sales tool was key. The AR/VR was integral in the venue’s pre-opening sales center.
“The building is an expression of our brand,” he said. “It was really hard to communicate to folks what we were building and what we were doing.” Tran said they used the app to communicate the movement of people through new areas, they wooed potential sponsorship clients by skinning the VR space with company-specific décor and in-app experiences (one company keen on dinosaurs experienced a T-Rex running down the players’ tunnel) and even recruited players by showing them their future home and locker room. Mistry branded the spaces and activation pieces in the VR experience to match the clients. “We had a lot of cool activations and knickknacks in the system to interact with, become part of the pitches,” Tran said.
The events and conferences team has continued to use the app to sell, and Tran expects to further investigate ways to “explore new technology” with the app. Mistry, who has worked in small-scale sports projects before this, said he has clients in the corporate world who use the technology to make sure organizers of an event or meeting are on the same page with the facility team in charge of setting up a room. By getting everyone on the same page via VR, he believes companies — or venues — can save time and money by giving the client exactly what they ordered, down to where the furniture needs to be, without requiring last-second changes.
“The beauty is it is great for facilities,” he said. “Facilities can never guess what a client may want. It is a banquet room, but it could be a wedding or a bar mitzvah; they have a vision in their mind. What if we can narrow that vision down and help articulate the ideas in their head through this device? They have ideas of flowers or table layouts, but we can put them to bed much earlier in the conversation and get them excited about the event. We are finding more and more people want to know what something looks like or how they can experience it. We can make options available up front for customization.”
Tran expects LAFC to follow Mistry’s model of conceptually designing rentable spaces, giving details of what they can be, either for conference or to sell sponsorships. “The potential for this tool is even greater than what we used it for,” he said. “From our innovation perspective, we will focus on the guest experience and how you activate content and really engage customers. AR is a big component of that.”
“We have a really cool use case for VR,” said Christian Lau, vice president of information technology for LAFC. “It is proven that people like it. We will introduce additional functionality over time.”
Mistry hopes the positive feedback from LAFC will lead to new stadium-specific jobs. ROK360 just met with the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball and has been in talks with other potential clients.