SALT LAKE CITY — While the Utah Jazz earned a No. 1 playoff seed for rolling to the best regular season record in the Western Conference, a new high-tech system is earning an assist in helping the Salt Lake City team reap the benefits of home-court advantage and bring in more fans than other playoff teams.
Mitigating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic at Vivint Smart Home Arena has been an unprecedented challenge, but venue operators say it is getting more manageable thanks to new mobile phone technology from a California-based tech company that will continue to play a role in keeping fans safe even after coronavirus runs it course.
Blake Paris, Vivint's vice president of public safety and guest experience, said the new tool is playing a critical role in helping safely manage the venue as COVID-19 concerns continue to be an issue.
"The Titan HST platform is used every game day as we adhere to the NBA's health and safety protocols and gradually increase fan attendance in a safe environment," Paris said in a statement. "Their COVID-19 technology has helped not only identify people that have come in close contact with positive individuals, but it has also helped identify people who might be experiencing symptoms, which allows us to quickly isolate them and stop the spread."
Right now, employees and team personnel are being prescreened for COVID-19 symptoms using the Titan HST platform. It can also be used on-site to instantly identify and notify anyone exposed to an infected individual. If there is a confirmed case in the arena, Vivint staff can use the program to track the precise location of the infected individual and quickly implement quarantine and risk mitigation procedures.
Health screening requirements also extend to fans to complete online if they have the Jazz ticket app. If they've purchased their tickets through a third-party seller, they can do an in-person test outside Vivint's entrance gates.
Frank Zang, Jazz senior vice president of communications, said the arena is and has been following guidelines from the NBA, which stipulates deferring to the direction of state and local health authorities on pandemic safety protocols for the arena.
When the truncated NBA season began last December, Vivint was only allowing about 10% of its normal capacity to attend games. That number, Zang said, has increased incrementally to the current 75% capacity for the playoffs.
Sunday's Game 1 of the Jazz first-round series against Memphis at Vivint Arena saw 13,750 fans in attendance, a crowd Zang said was twice as big as those that were allowed at the end of regular season play. A similar number is expected for Wednesday night's Game 2.
According to updates on NBA.com, Memphis is expected to allow around 10,000 fans in its arena when the series with the Jazz moves there, or 55% capacity.
When the public health concerns abate, Paris said the HST system will be expanded to become a communication tool that can function without power or internet connectivity in the event of emergency in the arena or nearby. It has the capacity to send targeted messages to fans in the whole arena, or in just a specific area, as well as receive messages. The Titan HST system, according to the company, also has translation capabilities as well as ability to gather and disseminate information provided by users on the network.
Using Bluetooth wireless technology and transponders installed throughout the arena, the platform can send and receive messages and act as a communication backstop in the event internet service is overloaded or interrupted.
The platform also has the potential to integrate with the Jazz app and interactive content to provide nonemergency information and promotional messaging, Paris said.
The technology is just now emerging in stadium settings and other big gathering venues as a multipurpose communication tool.
Paris said he was first introduced to the Titan HST platform in his previous position with SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, home of NFL's Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. He said the adoption of the new technology at Vivint, which could be in full use by the end of summer, puts the facility that hosts a wide array of concerts, conferences and other events near the front edge of innovation for arena and stadium operators.
"We're definitely among the first arenas to install a system like this," Paris said. "Every venue has to have a robust emergency communication system in place and the Titan HST product provides the latest technology on that front. But it will also integrate with more features ... and be a big boost for the overall guest experience at Vivint."