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Credit: SoFi Stadium

How the NFL’s Largest Stadium Is Being Managed Using a Digital Twin

With a 70,000-seat capacity, a 70,000-square-foot video board with 80 million pixels, and a Super Bowl already under its belt, it’s hard to imagine that SoFi Stadium lacks anything. But even the grandest of venues have room for improvement and the 3.1 million square foot home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers is no exception. To help one of the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world keep improving, the management team has turned to digital twin technology. This virtual model of the facility, designed by global technology company Willow, has been vital to finding more efficient ways to run the massive events that the building hosts.

One of the advantages the SoFi Stadium team found from using a digital twin in the daily management of the building is that it can provide easy access to live data. “We both went into this project together to develop a 3D model and asset registry to assist with operational efficiencies,” Chan Onechanh, Vice President of Facility Operations at SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park said. This includes information about all of the facility equipment, data about the performance of each unit, and real time data about the current conditions in the building.

From a management perspective, the digital twin makes it easier to address the most frequently asked questions about the stadium and provides a more thorough understanding of what spaces are available and how best to utilize them. The technology also helps management make proactive, data-led decisions in real-time in ways that can help lower costs, boost profits, and manage risk. For example, when the digital twin detected an elevated temperature setting that had gone undiscovered for a period of time, Willow’s analytics team was able to identify which unit was cooling the specific area of the stadium and address it immediately.

As COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, SoFi Stadium also faced questions about the distance between seats. The digital twin allowed the stadium team to use the measuring device within the 3D model and produce insightful data quickly and effectively for management. Likewise, when the events team wants to know if a truck can fit through a certain door or the production team wants to put a stage through a certain location and needs to know the best travel path to accomplish the task. Identifying various spatial variables and determining whether certain layouts can be accomplished can be done quickly thanks to the digital twin.

It isn’t just the stadium’s size and complexity that make SoFi a good candidate for a digital twin. At any given NFL game there are approximately 6,000 frontline staff members and another 500 full-time employees. For the Super Bowl LVI in February, an additional 2,000 staffers from the NFL were also present, along with another 1,000 media members, bringing to headcount to between 10,000 and 15,000 people. Helping keep track of all of the people on staff at the large events requires a responsive system of record.

At a venue as large as SoFi Stadium, the workforce needs to know the area that they’re supposed to patrol, or where their VIP booths are that they’re servicing. Now with the spatial model, the stadium management can show a new employee or someone who is not used to that area exactly where they’re supposed to be.

The digital twin also provides contractors and vendors a more concise depiction of the building plan throughout the project cycle and allows for more accurate pricing—all before the contractor even gets onsite. “SoFi Stadium is a vast, complex building in terms of its architecture,” Onechanh said. “Having that 3D representation, that frame of reference before someone arrives on site helps the conversation and makes the information more digestible.”

The stadium has unique needs, so Willow and the SoFi team have worked hand in hand to customize the digital twin’s capabilities. Robby Martin, Willow’s North American Senior Program Manager, explained the importance of a lasting relationship between the company that develops a digital twin and the teams that use it, “With digital twin software, it’s not something that we walk in, install one day and leave, never to return again. It’s something that we’re constantly going back and forth on to keep improving.” 

“This has really been a journey for both of us,” Martin continued. “SoFi Stadium’s been great about bringing ideas back to us and saying, ‘Hey what about this?’ Or ‘We have a specific user group like guest relations or security, how can they use the twin to make their jobs easier?’”Even after the Superbowl, the spotlight is not off of SoFi Stadium. It will be hosting the 2023 College Football National Championship as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2028 Olympic games, and a number of sporting events and concerts in between. For these events, digital twins will continue to be used by operations and management. “The digital twin has become extremely useful as a time-saving mechanism in our day-to-day operations,” Onechanh said. “I have no doubt we will continue to find ways to improve how we run the stadium thanks to what it can tell us.”

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