A $10 MILLION upgrade has transformed Etihad Stadium into Australia’s most hi-tech sports ground and one of the most internet-connected playing fields in the world.
Footy fans in the stands will be able to upgrade their seats, get access to match statistics live, surf the internet free and watch replays on more than triple the current number of high-definition screens.
New 360-degree LED strips circling two tiers of the Docklands ground will allow clubs to broadcast messages and animations to the crowd, such as a cartoon North Melbourne kangaroo hopping around the ground.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan is expected to launch the new technology on Friday.
More than 1500 hi-tech screens have been installed strategically across all three levels, so fans don’t miss a moment of the action.
As well as screening live matches, the screens can send messages to spectators in different parts of the ground, tailor statistics, and broadcast special deals and information to fans before, during and after the game.
The internet Protocol TV screens are capable of showing up to 1500 different match feeds, messages or graphics throughout the stadium at the touch of a button.
A group of 148 bigger screens has also been built at the entry and exit points of seating bays, so as to keep spectators informed as they move between their seats and bars, food outlets and toilets.
AFL clubs have been invited to use the technology to give home games a theme.
Stadium chiefs are billing it a “next-generation experience’’ in sport.
Stadium chief executive Paul Sergeant said AFL clubs had been encouraged to use the technology to put their own stamp on home matches.
“Every club is different and they will want to go in their own direction because they have their own identity and history,’’ Mr Sergeant said.
“It’s a fantastic piece of kit, fantastic software, and we’re just at the beginning of the journey.’’
Fans will be able to access exclusive content through a new app, Etihad Live.
Free, fast wi-fi will be offered throughout the ground from over 700 access points.
Under the new system, teams will be able to light the stadium in their colours and spruik memberships, food and merchandise offers, as well as celebrate team or player milestones, such as a 100th goal of the season.
The new technology will also be available for A-League soccer and Big Bash cricket matches, concerts and events.
The instant messaging system could also be used to tell fans about traffic or public transport delays and ticket offers for upcoming matches.
A “soft launch” of the technology will take place during the NAB Challenge action this weekend.
It will be launched in full at the April 4 AFL clash between the Western Bulldogs and West Coast.