IdealSeat Challenge - 30 MLB Stadiums Tour

Joel Carben
on August 3, 2015

Trip Update - Mission Accomplished!

On August 21, 2015, the Carben Family completed their tour of all 30 MLB stadiums at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. When it was all said and done, they had traveled 13,568 miles in 100 days to 38 states and provinces. The amount of information collected was impressive and the data was conclusive, big data can find the best seat to catch a foul ball, or even find the best seat in the stadium. So much so, that the New Yorker covered the trip and company in their August 24th edition.

But alas, even with nearly 1 million data points, the Carben family returned without a foul ball from the trip. They decided to try their luck at one more Seattle Mariner game and during the last homestand of the season...sitting in #1 recommended foul ball location in the IdealSeat app - Section 143, Row 17 - the team brought home the elusive souvenir!

In Search of the IdealSeat

The Carben family left Seattle May 22 with a goal to tour all 30 MLB stadiums and test the data behind IdealSeat’s fan experience app.

Just past Cooperstown now in rural upstate New York, the trip has been a deep dive into the modern day sports experience and the how big data can power the next wave of fans (with a few fun moments in between).

Fan Experience Data

IdealSeat is an iOS platform that provides baseball fans with advanced data about the fan experience that empowers ticket purchases. Interested to sit in the sun and drink a refreshing beverage? We can find you the best seat to do just that.

Want to catch a foul ball or home run? IdealSeat has you covered. Bringing the family or coworkers to the game and like to look like a pro? Tap the app and you are good to go.

We’ve spent the past four years collecting nearly one million data points around the fan experience and are gearing up for a run at NFL this fall.  With thousands of engaged users we are excited to bring a innovative fan-centric approach to ticketing and the in-stadium experience.

Tracking the Game

Since 2011, our small group of stats geeks including co-founders Adam Navarrete and Spencer Fornaciari have tracked the best fan experiences in MLB. We started by being the first to ever track foul balls using an iOS app and were eventually featured on ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Time Magazine. But quickly the concept grew as fans asked us for more and more data about different fan experiences they desired.

The IdealSeat Challenge quickly became a tour with two purposes: First, to promote our newly launched app, and second, to test the data powering the system. So the Carben family [Rachel, Zadie (4) and Roxanne (2)] packed up our 1986 Volkswagen Vanagon and set out to tour all 30 MLB ballparks for three months.

Our trusty home for three months, the VW Vanagon, pictured here with Roxanne (2)

Since then we’ve covered 21 of the 30 parks and tracked countless foul balls, home runs, food and beverage stands, sun and shade seats, and even checked out every playground.

Traveling from Ballpark to Ballpark

In total we will cover over 12,000 miles in 3 months when it is all said and done. Half of the adventure has been the data behind the app and the fan experience, and the other half the travel in between. We have used apps to dial in everything from campgrounds to playgrounds, food and more.

There are so many highlights (and lowlights) to fill a novel however some of the best moments have been camping - seeing the stars Joshua Tree, four wheeling to a desolate campground outside Sante Fe, sleeping on the dunes at St. John State Park in the Florida Pan Handle, waking up on a lake outside Cooperstown in upstate New York, traveling by train and seeing the amazing train stations of the mid-Atlantic at Grand Central, Union Station Baltimore, Philly, DC and more.

All that and some great coverage in Forbes and Baseball Essentials to boot. Below you may explore our trip through a Tableau Public data visualization:

On the downside, the heat has been hot and the bugs have been big. The Vanagon has suffered three “breakdowns” along the way needing a new alternator in the Bay, a new drive shaft in Stuart, FLA, and a new coolant bottle in Pittsburgh PA. Anyone who has had to empty a porta-potti every day for three months or battle raccoons with a pool noodle knows that these are the trials and tribulations of the road.  

When it’s all said and done, we believe we will take our fan experience data to the next level and get fans of all types into the best experiences possible.  Feedback from the fans in and around the stadiums has been amazing, and the IdealSeat team is well on to its way of creating a next generation mobile ticketing platform for sports fans everywhere.

The added bonus of traveling around this great country sharing in two American pastimes – baseball and roadtrips – is personally one of the best experiences of my life and one that will never be forgotten.  With the right data, and apps that use this information to power decisions, the modern day version of these American pastimes are easy to hit out of the park.

Team Carben: Rachel, Zadie (4), Roxanne (2) and me, Joel at Yankee Stadium

Check out the tour on Instagram @idealseat and @jcarben
To download the IdealSeat app click here:

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