By Edward Cardenas
AUBURN HILLS (CBS Detroit) – Going to work used to be the mantra of the Detroit Pistons, but while the team has created a new tagline, it still applies to the continued efforts by Palace Sports & Entertainment to keep the Auburn Hills arena on the cutting edge of fan experiences.READ MORE: Chief White Says 'There's Reason To Believe' Remains Found In Detroit Belong to Missing Mother Latima Warren
Free WiFi, a new scoreboard and mobile ticketing are among the most recent amenities offered to fans. And starting next season, the arena’s original seats will begin to be replaced.
The overhaul of the Palace of Auburn Hills began over three years ago when Tom Gores bought the Palace Sports & Entertainment, and will continue into the near future.
“(Tom Gores) didn’t want to be in a position where we are into a follow the leader type of game,” said Dennis Mannion, CEO and President of Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons. “He wanted us to set a more progressive and more proactive approach to building things out.”
Nearly $40 million has been invested into the Palace during Gores’ ownership, including nearly $15 million in technology upgrades.
Improvements to technology have been made on multiple levels. The Palace worked with Ericcson to a state-of-the-art WiFi system with nearly 300 access points which cover the arena and parking lot.
This allows for fans to access social media sites and utilize the team’s new mobile app which offers live game updates, fan assist capabilities and the ability to purchase in-game experiences such as meet-and-greet opportunities and take a post-game shot on the court.
Additionally with the WiFi network, the Palace now offers mobile ticketing and mobile carts that use the wireless network for the point of sales system and can be reconfigured throughout the arena and into the parking lot for a variety of events.
Verizon also worked with the Palace to enhance cellular voice and data services in the building, and officials are working with other carriers to enhance the mobile experience for their customers.
Fans can also get push notifications if they have the Bluetooth enabled on their smart phones, and have downloaded the Pistons app, through beacons placed throughout the arena by the Palace’s beacon partner Thinaire.
Tristan Louis, Thinaire chief marketing officer, said the Palace is among the top 10 arenas in the globe with this large of a deployment of this technology.
Nearly 50 of these quarter-sized beacons have been placed throughout the 200-level that sends notifications for seat upgrades. Beacons have also been placed outside the Pistons Locker Room stores for in-game specials.READ MORE: Person Of Interest In Zion Foster Case Turns Himself In
“Without a connected arena, none of that functionality works,” said Palace Vice President of brand networks Mike Donnay, who added that the different technologies have been engineered to not interfere with each other.
Parking has also been enhanced at the Palace with the use of Bypass Mobile, which allows staff to scan parking passes purchased through Ticketmaster and downloaded to a smart phone. The service also allows fans to purchase upgraded parking from attendants.
But one of the most noticeable enhancements is the new Palace360 scoreboard system – which features upper-level endzone boards with game statistics, LED ribbon boards encircling the lower-level and upper-level fascia, arena tunnel entrance digital displays, audio system upgrades and a six-screen scoreboard inside the arena which stretches from foul-line to foul line and is 60-feet-wide and 22-feet high. The scoreboard is also 21-times sharper, and three-times larger, than its predecessor.
The scoreboard shows the game, provides updates and posts Tweets with photo sent with the hashtag #PistonsPride. This allows fans to interact with the game.
All of these scoreboards are controlled from a new production studio deep inside the stadium where a team of 10 people direct seven cameras in the arena for video feeds, share Tweets and provide other in-game, fan engagement efforts.
Back up in the concourse, the digital food and beverage boards allow for dynamic pricing for various events. There is also a new “ticket headquarters” in the concourse to sell tickets and provide 360-degree virtual reality view from the seats fans are considering to purchase.
Palace officials added that this summer work will begin to replace the arena’s original seats – which date back to 1988 – will be replaced south of the 100-level seats will be replaced.
These new seats, with incorporated near field connection (NFC) which allows for two communication between electronic devices, which will allow fans to order from their seats, download the app and interact with scoreboard activities.
In the coming year, Pistons will review sales data of concessions items, what is selling, where it is selling and then upgrading the food and beverage selection and the location of the where those items will be sold.
Further down the road, drones may also be used for promotions in the arena.
“We can’t control whether or not the team wins or loses on the court,” Donnay said. “But what we can control is, do you have a great time when you are in the venue.”MORE NEWS: Attorney Representing Abuse Survivors Speaks Out Following UM $490 Settlement
This report was updated at 7:50 a.m. Wednesday.