Ford Field Wi-Fi connectivity top priority for Lions

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
The Lions' home opponents in 2016 will be Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, Tennessee and Jacksonville.

Detroit — Uniform changes and cheerleaders have long been offseason talking points for Lions fans, but improved technology has made another non-football topic popular this year.

Most people who have been to Ford Field for a Lions home game have experienced issues connecting to the wireless Internet, and team president Rod Wood said Thursday night the team is “very seriously” looking into improving it.

“I’m hopeful that we’re going to have a Wi-Fi that works beautifully this season,” he told about 2,000 people at a Lions Member Summit for season-ticket holders at Ford Field.

Wood said his desire to fix the Wi-Fi at Ford Field led to him speaking with the NFL’s head of information technology, presumably Michelle McKenna-Doyle, the league’s vice president and chief information officer. He said he asked her “to leverage the NFL’s relationship with Verizon to get Verizon to come into our building, invest a lot of money.”

The team has offered free Wi-Fi to Verizon customers the past few seasons. The goal is to not only improve the access through Verizon, but to eventually make it available for everyone, though there are a lot of technological hurdles to providing Wi-Fi to 65,000 people.

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“It’s not working the way it needs to work, even for the Verizon folks, and anybody on another carrier has extreme difficulty,” Wood said. “We’ve tried a number of Band-Aids. They have not worked, and we’re going to get it right.”

Wi-Fi is important for many fans who try to keep tabs on news and other NFL games happening the same time as the Lions, particularly for fantasy football. It’s often hard for people to connect to their cellular data network in a packed stadium, which has made Wi-Fi an increasingly important aspect of the fan experience.

“We have to get it right,” Wood said.