(Vizrt is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)
The University of Florida football program played its first game in 1906 on a humble baseball diamond in Gainesville. More than a century later, things have changed considerably as the Gators are one of the banner programs of the Southeastern Conference and play in front of crowds of 90,000 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, colloquially known as “The Swamp”.
To engage that many fans at one time, Gators’ staff must make sure that “The Swamp” is outfitted with the right technology. Vizrt is now playing a vital role in this process with Viz Arena and the Down and Distance tool on the jumbotron and in-stadium monitors.
Viz Arena enables the addition of augmented reality graphics, including virtual ads, through image-based tracking. Down & Distance, a software application of Viz Arena that inserts a yellow first-down marker, makes the line appear painted on the field rather than digitally imposed. This is the first application of its kind available in 1080p or 4K without any upscaling or complex image processing.
After using those products in past seasons, Associate Athletics Director Alicia Longworth and the University Athletic Association made the decision to revisit Vizrt for the 2019 season.
“Four or five years ago, we started an innovation committee allowing for different staff members to present new ideas that could make our business better and enhance the fan experience,” Longworth recalls. “A member of our GatorVision staff, Jon Rubin, actually spearheaded this and submitted the idea to the committee and they loved the idea. We really felt strongly about wanting to bring it back because we’re all competing with 70-inch TVs and couches and air conditioned spaces at people’s homes. So we want to make it as fun of an experience as we can for our fans.”
With a program as steeped in history and tradition as Florida, fans are bound to be dedicated and passionate. This is why many of them travel in from surrounding cities like Jacksonville, Tampa, and Orlando even though there are many college and professional sport options in those cities. Not to mention, if it’s SEC football that a fan wants, they don’t have to go far to find the stadiums of the other teams in the conference. This brings added importance to creating a memorable fan experience for the Gators.
“We have a very passionate fan base that have been coming to The Swamp for a very long time,” Longworth notes. “But as we continue to grow as an organization we want to make sure that we continue to add these things like WiFi, a mobile app, and the Down and Distance tool. The Swamp is a special place and we want to try and keep it that way for our fans.”
With Viz Arena, the Down & Distance tool can seamlessly integrate virtual graphics or ads on or around the field of play as fans view the game on either of the stadium’s big screens. The screen in the south endzone is 30 feet x 137 ft while the one in the north endzone is 25 feet by 75 feet. Monitors can also be found on the concourses and in the stadium’s suites. These graphics can be fully integrated into a production at a specific location or tied to the lines as they move.
“Spotting exactly where the ball is can sometimes be a little difficult for our fans when we have a full stadium,” Longworth says. “So just giving them a little more ability to know exactly where we are on the field, Down and Distance gives them that opportunity on our video board.”
With the season now in full swing, the Gators’ football team begins their march toward their latest accolade. For the University, this also means that many more fans will be making the trip back to The Swamp and they appear ready for it.
“Seven Saturdays throughout the fall, we just want to make sure we keep making our fan experience better. It has been convenient for us to use and easy for our GatorVision staff to implement.”