The headline on the news release read "Allegiant Stadium to make history as the first American pro sports venue to open cashless" so being a reformed sports marketing executive brought a smile to my face. It was also in a real way, a true to life dejavu for me. You see, 32 years ago when I was working with the Denver Nuggets we were one of, if not, the first arena's to incorporate credit cards at the concession stands.
Back then, cash was king. You bought your beer with cash. Paid for your popcorn with dollars. You picked out merchandise at the stands and handed over ones, fives, tens and twenties. But at the now long gone McNichols Arena here the Nuggets played we were going with credit cards too. Back then we were in negotiations with both Pepsi and Coke for the pouring rights in the building. One of the "big" ideas that co-owner Andy Shlenker had--to this day he was in my mind one of the brightest and most creative executives in sports--was to bring in the fast food brands into the arena and have greater sales as a way to get people to eat more of what they already like, and in turn increase the per caps (per person spending). It was a novel idea. A real first.
But one of the catches with Pepsi was they wanted their spin off brands that became YUM Brands-Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut to take credit cards. So, we said, sure. We turned to our concessions partner, ARA who earlier had suggested the same idea. But getting credit card machines to work inside an arena was not an easy feat back in the late 80's. It started with the fact that the goal was to speed people through the lines, not make them wait longer.
Phone lines wouldn't do it. They take to long. So how did we do it? With a satellite and microwave link. It was a bit of a workaround but microwave link would send the data to a terminal hub, that would approve the credit card. The satellite link would send the data back to the cashier. This all took only a few seconds in theory, but it did work.
Now, with 5G this idea is made easier. So much easier. And more reliable.