Join us at 11:00 a.m. PST August 4th for the next dot.LA Strategy Session on "The Future of Sports."

The Rams and Chargers are set to play in a brand new $5.5 billion stadium in Inglewood this season that is being billed as the most technologically advanced in the world. Meanwhile, Dodger Stadium just completed a $100 million update and L.A. will be getting a new pro women's soccer team, Angel City, in 2022 backed by high profile VC's and celebrities.

The problem is, no one knows how the season will look or, in some cases, if there will even be a season as the number of coronavirus cases continue to surpass records in the U.S. What does the future of sports hold during and after the coronavirus pandemic?

dot.LA Senior Reporter Ben Bergman will welcome Julie Uhrman, founder and president at WFC LA (Angel City), and Kevin Demoff, chief operating officer at Los Angeles Rams, for a virtual roundtable discussion.

Register here - space is limited!

Julie Uhrman, Founder and President at WFC LA (Angel City)

Julie Uhrman, Founder and President at WFC LA (Angel City) 

Founder and president of Angel City, the consortium who received the rights from the NWSL to officially bring a women's soccer team to Los Angeles in 2022.

Uhrman was named head of media at Playboy in 2018 after serving as Lionsgate's GM of over-the-top ventures, overseeing the company's Tribeca Shortlist, Comic-Con HQ, Laugh Out Loud in partnership with Kevin Hart and Pantaya.

Prior to joining Lionsgate, Uhrman worked at VR vendor Jaunt as head of platform business development. She was the founder and CEO of OUYA, an Android-based game console for living room, which raised $8.6 million through Kickstarter and then went on to secure venture funding from Kleiner Perkins and Alibaba before the company was acquired by Razer in 2015. Previously Uhrman held executive roles in digital and game companies including IGN Entertainment and Vivendi Universal.

Kevin Demoff, Chief Operating Officer at Los Angeles Rams

Kevin Demoff, Chief Operating Officer at Los Angeles Rams

Kevin Demoff is in his 11th year as chief operating officer with the Rams. In this capacity, Demoff serves as the team's top front office executive and liaison to owner and chairman, Stan Kroenke, on all organizational matters.

Demoff was recognized by the Sports Business Journal as one of its "Forty under 40" class members of 2016 and in 2010 he was named one of the "NFL's 10 Future Power Brokers" by Sports Illustrated.

Prior to joining the Rams, Demoff spent the previous four seasons (2005-08) with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he served as a consultant before being named senior assistant in 2006. In this capacity, Demoff assisted General Manager Bruce Allen in contract negotiations, salary cap management, strategic planning and both college and pro scouting. During his tenure with the Buccaneers, the team captured NFC South titles in 2005 and 2007 while posting a winning record in three of his four seasons.

Ben Bergman, Senior Reporter at dot.LA

Ben Bergman, Senior Reporter at dot.LA 

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior reporter, covering venture capital. Previously he was a senior reporter/host at KPCC, a producer at Gimlet Media and NPR and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times. Bergman was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. He enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

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When Dodger Stadium hosts its much-delayed opening day on Thursday, there will be a new $100 million centerfield plaza featuring food, entertainment, and play areas for kids and a host of less visible tech upgrades, including blazing-fast 5G wireless connectivity and an improved point-of-sale system allowing fans to order food and drinks without having to wait in line.

But, of course, there will be no fans on this strangest of opening days, just cardboard cutouts and piped-in crowd noise designed to make the cavernous stadium feel slightly less eerie.

"It feels like I got stood up for prom," said Ralph Esquibel, the Dodgers' Vice-President of Information Technology, who has been working on the upgrades for years. "I got all dressed up and ready to go and my date didn't show up. It's definitely a little bit disheartening that you have this beautiful new, shiny stadium. I want people to enjoy it."

The improvements were originally scheduled to coincide with the Dodgers hosting the 2020 All-Star game, which they have now been awarded for 2022.

Anyone who has ever tried to text or browse Instagram during a game – Dodger Stadium has the distinction of being one of the most Instagrammed places on Earth – will appreciate the wireless updates. The team installed over 1,000 5G access points and will be the first MLB team to feature next-generation Wi-Fi 6.

Dodgers Opening Day (2020) www.youtube.com

The team also installed new point-of-sale cloud software from Appetize, a Los Angeles startup founded in 2011 that went through the 2016 Dodgers accelerator, and is already used at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

"The three of us co-founders are our massive Dodgers fans, and to have the Dodgers, to us, is that trifecta of having the three biggest brands in baseball," said Kevin Anderson, Appetize's co-founder and chief strategy officer.

Anderson says the last two months have easily been the busiest in the company's history as teams use the shutdown to upgrade their systems.

"Whether you believe that stadiums will have fans in their seats in August, in October or February, that's still a fairly short window of time to change your operating model to meet how fans want to order today, which is in a more touch free digital fashion," said Anderson.

As part of the switch to Appetize, the stadium hawkers who roam the aisles of Dodger Stadium selling cotton candy and peanuts will now carry handheld devices, which means the days of handing crumpled up bills down your row and hoping you get handed back change are over. All the hawkers will now accept credit cards.

The new system will also allow fans to use Postmates to preorder stadium food so they do not have to wait in line for Dodger Dogs, expanding a program the team piloted last year in the upper decks.

"Postmates is a big deal because every venue has always tried to do mobile ordering but I've never heard of it being successful," said Esquibel.

For baseball purists or even more casual fans, the idea of people spending more time staring at their phones rather than being engaged in the game may not sound so appealing. A growing number of concerts and comedy shows have banned smartphones. There is also a much more serious problem of fans distracted by phones getting seriously injured after being hit by foul balls. But the MLB, whose average fan is 53 years old, wants to stay relevant and appeal to a younger audience.

"I feel the romance of Dodger Stadium," said Esquibel, who grew up near the ballpark. "There is a lot of history, but at the same time we want to evolve and keep up with technology."

Esquibel also believes that, far from taking fans out of the game, technology will bring them closer to it because they can track advanced analytics and play fantasy on their smartphones. The next logical step: Fans will someday be able to make in-game bets, as is already commonplace in the U.K. and Europe.

"It could be very exciting," said Esquibel. "Wagering is coming."

Already this season MLB is encouraging fans to bet on games and plays to win contests that offer cash prizes, though the league is careful to point out it does not yet allow actual betting.

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