Etihad Stadium is set to enhance its Medallion Club Membership, with the introduction of Smart Seats and it’s changing the fan experience as Rick Molinsky discovered.

Friday night at Etihad – another big AFL game (Essendon vs Hawks) was underway, but not all the night’s entertainment was on the field below.

Etihad have upped the ante and enhanced the whole going to footy experience with the introduction of luxury leather Smart Seats complete with in-seat tablets. Launched in conjunction with Telstra and Samsung, this is part of the next phase of Etihad’s multi-million connected stadium fit out – making the venue one of the most technically advanced and connected, across the globe.

I was one of the lucky few who got to road-test what will be a progressive roll out of 1000 Medallion Club seats. We’re told the technology will replace some existing video seats, but the new Australian first high definition screens will provide an unprecedented experience for sports fans.

What I liked was that the tablets took me beyond the game playing that night and I was able to access to all Fox Sport and free-to-air channels along with Sky Racing, a live broadcast of the game and scoreboard feed.

If I was at home I’d be able to switch from one game to another, hit a pause button, as well as rewind and replay the action. While the atmosphere at a live game can’t be replaced, this new technology offers the choice of a live match along with HD replay action, literally in the palm of your hand along with a quick check of other sports and channels.

This is also great news for families, who at times need to keep kids occupied, with the tablets providing access to Nickelodeon and Nickelodeon Junior.

A quick chat with Etihad Stadium acting CEO Michael Green revealed that the Smart Seat technology is raising the bar, combining the very best of being at a live event with the great recent advances made through technology.

“We looked at technology at some of the world’s best venues and and believe we have produced a global first product which takes the in stadium sports’ experience to another level,” he said.

Executive Director Telstra Business, David Coventry agreed, adding that the expectations of fans and how they want to connect at events are changing.

“They (the fans) want to watch live sport but also be in touch with the outside world; keeping up to date with other sports, news and using social media. This, new game day technology, combined with Etihad Stadium’s free WiFi will continue to enrich the fan experience,” said Mr Coventry.

While personally I’m happy with the luxury seat and streaming I hear there will be further enhancements added to the app progressively making fans feel even more at home. Sign me up.

Now for the tech stuff

Telstra has provided an IP Cisco network to enable the new Etihad Stadium Medallion Club Smart seats along with the tablet arm, casing and Samsung Tablets. Telstra Partner Appscore has also built the bespoke app to support the streaming and entertainment available on the tablets.

At the beginning of 2015 Etihad Stadium, also in partnership with Telstra, launched a new stadium wireless network, mobile application and Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) system. The venue unveiled more than 1400 IPTV High Definition screens and more than 700 high density WiFi access points to provide fast, and free, internet connections to each and every fan.