Baxter App

UNO appears to be among the first college teams to devise a venue-specific app.

Say you’re going to the first UNO hockey game at Baxter Arena. Want to know what food’s available at the concession stands? Looking for up-to-the-moment game stats?

There’s an app for that.

As UNO prepares for the first drop of the puck Friday night at Baxter, it’s also rolling out a new smartphone app intended to enhance the arena experience for fans.

The app appears to put the University of Nebraska at Omaha on the front end of a growing national trend.

A number of professional sports teams have developed apps specific to their stadiums or arenas. But UNO appears to be among the first college teams to devise a venue-specific app.

Such apps are bound to become more common as both college and professional sports teams try to keep fans buying tickets at a time when some fans see appeal in just staying home and watching the game on a high-definition, big-screen TV. Anything that improves the in-person experience for fans can help keep the dollars flowing.

“At the end of the day, without fans, you really don’t have a whole lot,” said Trev Alberts, UNO’s athletic director. “You want fans to be able to define what their arena experience looks like.”

Other schools are certainly recognizing the benefits of connecting with fans through their cellphones on gameday.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln doesn’t have a venue-specific app, but it does have a Huskers athletics app with a built-in “in venue” function. Among the features it offers fans in Memorial Stadium on football Saturdays are video replays from multiple angles. NU athletics spokesman Keith Mann said the school is working to create other functions to enhance fans’ experience at all Husker venues.

Friday night’s hockey game between UNO and Air Force will mark the official debut of Baxter Arena, the 7,900-seat, $82 million facility that serves as home to UNO hockey, basketball and volleyball.

Like many venues and public places, Baxter Arena will have free Wi-Fi available, allowing fans to post pictures and follow their Twitter feeds. For many millennials, Alberts said, Wi-Fi is a must.

The “Mav Experience” app will work in conjunction with the Wi-Fi, giving fans services and content unique to the arena.

“It’s all about having the greatest gameday experience for the fan,” said Susan Thaden of Client Resources Inc., which created the app for UNO.

Thaden’s firm is an Omaha-based tech talent, development and services company. It has worked with UNO in the past to help the school find IT talent. A CRI subsidiary called From Now On develops apps for smartphones.

Thaden, who serves on the advisory board for UNO’s College of Information Science and Technology, approached the school with the idea for the Baxter app.

CRI is now marketing the arena app to other venues around the country under the name “Fan Experience” and is working on a UNO campus app that will provide information and services to students. The university is paying CRI $290,000 over three years to develop both the UNO apps.

The arena app recently made its debut during Baxter open house events for UNO alums and season-ticket holders, and it has already been downloaded more than 1,700 times.

Besides helping immerse fans in games and maximizing revenues, the app will also increase community exposure to the school, Alberts said. School officials can use the app to promote other upcoming events and campus happenings.

“We are trying to take advantage of all the opportunities Baxter Arena affords us,” Alberts said.

Among the app’s features:

» Navigation. Maps help fans find their seats, the nearest restroom or their parking lot after the game.

» Concession menus. Rather than wandering around looking at the options, fans can peruse food choices on their phones. In the future, suite- and club-seat holders will be able to use the app to order food from their seats.

» Team schedules, rosters, pictures and bios.

» Live stats. Fans outside the arena can follow the live stats, too. Plans are also in the works for Mav fans to be able to follow live stats from away games.

» Messages to fans. If a concession stand has too many hot dogs late in the game, it might put them on sale and announce that to fans. Or the words to the school song might appear when the band plays. Discount coupons from UNO sponsors will also appear on the app.

There are more features to come, Thaden said.

“UNO has an opportunity to have an intimate, interactive relationship with everyone in the arena,” Thaden said. “You can’t get more intimate than the phone in their pocket.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1130, henry.cordes@owh.com

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