Glendale, AZ - October 26, 2015 - University of Phoenix Stadium: Jonathan Cooper (61) and Carson Palmer (3) of the Arizona Cardinals during a regular season Monday Night Football game (Photo by Scott Clarke / ESPN Images)
Back in 2015, the Arizona Cardinals became one of six NFL teams to use virtual reality in their training efforts. Now, the Cardinals are including their fans in the virtual reality experience, thanks to an extended partnership with Cox Business, the team announced.
Under the partnership, Cox will provide the Cardinals with technological needs including the introduction of a free virtual reality station for fans at University of Phoenix Stadium. According to the announcement, the VR experience will allow fans to envision themselves on the field at Cardinals practice, on the field for player introductions, and standing alongside team captains for the traditional coin toss.
Virtual reality training is nothing new for the Cardinals, who have been using technology from STRIVR to run practices and give players all-important repetitions from behind the safety of a headset since 2015, according to a Cardinals.com article. Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians bought the technology for his team after connecting with STRIVR CEO Derek Belch through Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney.
“I’ve been waiting 20 years for someone to do this,” coach Bruce Arians told Cardinals.com. “I always thought if you could put a headset on and play football in a room with live pictures, how much better you could get without sweating.”
Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was one of the first to try STRIVR’s technology. He described it to his teammates as, er, indescribable. “I try to tell guys, ‘It’s cool,’ but then they put it on and it’s ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it.’ You can’t describe how real it really is,” Palmer told Cardinals.com.
In fact, Palmer is partly responsible for the virtual reality fan experience that the Cardinals are installing in the concourse with Cox’s technology assistance. He told Cardinals.com in 2015 that he had suggested the team should consider having a couple headsets available for fans around the stadium so they could see football from inside the pocket. Now, fans can do just that — and at no cost to them.
Ed Aaronson, who is the vice president for Cox Business in Arizona, said in the announcement that Cox has been providing the Cardinals with technology for a decade and that the expanded deal between the two organizations paved the way for a more fan-centric focus.
Installing virtual reality for the fans could be just the first step in an expanded in-stadium experience for a University of Phoenix Stadium that, according to the announcement, has hosted the NCAA Final Four, two recent Super Bowls, the annual college football Fiesta Bowl, three college football national championship games, and other significant events.
Cardinals president Michael Bidwell, who first got on board with VR when Arians, Palmer, and other Cardinals players said they loved it as a training tool, said in a statement, “Through this partnership, Cox will provide a broad range of services and products that will not only deliver the best possible stadium experience for Cardinals fans, but also enhance the organization’s technological capabilities on a daily basis.”