Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 10/9/13
NFL owners will provide financial support to the Cleveland Browns and to the Washington Redskins to upgrade their stadiums. Will it be enough to compete with fan experience in their own home? Calling a time out for that one. The Browns will receive $62.5 million in funding for at $120 million, two-year renovation project for FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns revealed that new stadium scoreboards and sound system are in the works. The Redskins will receive a portion of a $27 million project to upgrade Wi-Fi, install ribbon signing and seating modifications at FedEx Field. Ho-hum. Any BCS team could do that. There is nothing quite like attending a live game of your favorite pro team. The NFL is the highest form of America's favorite game. A lot of negatives go with that, from long traffic commutes, to unruly fans (of other teams because your teams fans are never unruly) and overpriced everything.  You went anyway because your father's cathode ray TV didn't match the visual experience of being there. Now, the big knock on seeing a live game in a stadium is that it's no match of your in-home enjoyment. Yesterday's owners announcement of stadium funding for two teams falls far short of fixing the problem.  The NFL sets its sights too low. Here are... 5 Ideas to Improve Fan Experience at NFL Games No. 1 ‒ Pre-game check-in The airline industry pioneered this process. Reservations are made electronically and paper tickets are history. Travelers can check-in online the evening before their flight and print their boarding pass in advance. Some online ticket outlets have a system allows you to buy a game ticket and print a game ticket from home on the day of the game. The technology exists. Why not extend it a bit further with fast path entry to stadiums, reservation times to enter gates, or any number of travel industry concepts for fan convenience? No. 2 ‒ Instant replay on the big boards This one always frustrated me. The home team does not show instant replays in stadiums, so the live audience is the last to know what any fans sees at home on a controversial play. Home team coaches don't want to show replays because it could help opposing coaches to challenge a call. The only losers are live fans. Assistant coaches for both teams are in a booth somewhere watching those same replays on a TV monitor then whispering the boss on a likely success of a coaches' challenge. This is the easiest fix for fan enjoyment, or frustration. it's also the last thing the league will consider. No. 3 ‒ Embrace fantasy football ... more Fantasy football coverage has been promoted to 30-minute segments on ESPN and the NFL Network. The NFL is adapting, but much too slowly, to an age when the ratio of smartphones to fans is 1:1. As the U.S. Marines would say, it's significant but not sufficient that the NFL want to increase network capacity in stadiums. Fans want network speed for a reason. They want need to keep tabs on players on their second favorite team. Yes sir, every Sunday, every fan's second favorite team is their fantasy team. They need live updates of game scores, fantasy stats shown on stadium scoreboards during games. That would approach what fans can get from home. "Approach" only makes the stadium experience competitive with the home experience. The NFL should do more. How about a one day fantasy league just for in-stadium fans where the winners get a an autographed jersey, or a free topping from Peyton Manning's pizza franchise. The answers are out there and the NFL have clever marketing people. Dream up some fantasy offerings No. 4 ‒ Stadiums as sports-retail-entertainment mega-malls All that parking space going to waste. Stadiums are revered most places as the home of the home team, but they are idle most days of the year. Why aren't owners and the jurisdictions that they coerce for public financing putting that land to year-round use. Stadiums should be ringed by retail stores, restaurants and sports bars. outlets attached to the stadium. (The chauvinist pig in me thinks Victoria's Secret would be a hit because, well, ... guys.) Make the game experience more than a game. Make the entertainment complex open all year. This idea complicates game day traffic, but the thought is to give fans multiple reasons to arrive earlier than kick-off, stay later than the final whistle while offering owners and counties new revenue streams to pay for it all. No. 5 ‒ Family discounts on tickets This one is touchy because to taps into teams' revenue. You can watch games at home with family and friends way cheaper than going to the stadium with family and friends. The NFL offers no ticket discounts for a party of four to six. They will sell the ticket at face value to someone else. More fans will stay home. The league will once more miss the mark as they are doing with preseason games. The NFL hopes to boost the attractiveness of preseason games. They are exploring every idea except the easiest to do ‒ lower the price. The league demands full price to attend a preseason contest that is little more than a scrimmage. They will not change it, but they should just like offering family pricing for real games.

This article first appeared on This Given Sunday and was syndicated with permission.

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