GAA gets radical (IT infrastructure overhaul)

25 Oct 2006

Croke Park’s IT infrastructure has been radically overhauled with the installation of a fibre optic network and Cat6 cabling throughout the stadium, allowing it to provide services such as wireless ticketing and broadcasts within the ground.

The technology supplier Diacom installed a fibre network ring that surrounds the entire stadium and divided the site into 13 grids of 10,000m sq each, laid with CAT5 and CAT6 cabling back to a single communications room. Every one of the communications rooms were then linked to a master communications room through the fibre network.

A total of 600 data and ADSL points were laid across the stadium, meaning that any voice, video or data service can now be delivered anywhere in the stadium.

The infrastructure upgrade has allowed the stadium to introduce services such as wireless ticketing, which is based on handheld scanners and replaces the need for ticket stubs. A new video system can carry live broadcasts within the stadium. For this part of the project, 130 new plasma screens were installed around the ground and 200 existing displays were integrated into the network. The plasma screens will now run a range of entertainment from live broadcasts from within the stadium to external news and advertising.

In addition, the upgraded local area network (LAN) can now carry voice over IP traffic as well as data services providing internet access for guests from anywhere within the stadium.

Croke Park also hosts concerts and business conferences in addition to its bread and butter of hosting sporting events. According to stadium director Peter McKenna, an estimated two million guests will pass through the gates this year. “Managing a stadium that is one of the largest in the world is no mean feat,” he said. “We needed the most up-to-date services which we believe we have sourced from Diacom.”

Garret Lloyd, sales director with Diacom, outlined the task in setting up the network. “Given its sheer size, Croke Park is like a mini municipality with all the complexity that that suggests,” he said. “To specify a project of this magnitude required in-depth knowledge of the stadium.” As Diacom was an existing technology supplier to the stadium it was able to complete the project in weeks rather than the months that a new contractor would have needed, Lloyd claimed.

By Gordon Smith