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'It totally changes the experience': Square eyes Major League Baseball parks

Daniel Roberts

At professional baseball games, fans are used to waiting in lines to get into the stadium, to order and pay for food, and even to enter the bathroom.

Now tech companies are cutting down on these lines, or at least on the first two types.

Square, the payments company helmed by Jack Dorsey, has put its Terminal device in the hands of more than half the roving concessionaires in Washington Nationals ballpark in Washington, D.C.

The men and women who walk around the ballpark selling food and beer can now accept a credit card (or mobile phone using Apple Pay or Google Pay) with Square’s handheld device, making the process more frictionless.

“It totally changes the experience for people who are used to a cash-only environment in every park they’ve ever been to,” Jesse Dorogusker, Square’s head of hardware, told Yahoo Finance.

A beer seller uses Square Terminal to take payment at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. (Square)

Going bigger

Square also brought Caviar, its mobile food-ordering app, to Nationals ballpark.

The company installed a concession stand in Section 106 of the park with food from local Caviar restaurants (the restaurants will rotate). Fans can order and pay from their seat using the Caviar app and get notified when it’s ready—so no standing in a long line to order and pay.

This comes after Clear, the fingerprint I.D. company, has also been rapidly expanding to MLB ballparks. Clear is now set up at 11 of them, allowing fans to skip lines outside the stadium by tapping two fingers.

More and more sports and concert venues “see a great opportunity to apply technology to get people through a line faster,” Dorogusker said. Square also integrated Terminal at the Coachella music festival for the first time this year.

Square was Yahoo Finance’s Company of the Year in 2018, a year in which it launched three new hardware devices, made multiple acquisitions, and saw its shares rise 50%. The stock is up 26% so far in 2019.

Square Terminal signs inside Square's HQ in San Francisco, Calif., on Dec. 11, 2018. (Daniel Roberts/Yahoo Finance)

Square launched Terminal last October. The brick-shaped, $399 device is a friendly middle-ground tool for small businesses, bigger than the standard white fob (called Square Reader) that plugs into the headphone jack of a tablet, but smaller and far more portable than the large $999 fully-equipped stand, Square Register.

Square acquired Caviar in 2014 and built it around relationships with high-end restaurants that did not previously offer delivery. It has smaller market share than GrubHub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash, but it has a large foothold in its home base of San Francisco (27% share).

Square has recently taken steps to integrate Caviar further with Square’s ecosystem: Caviar delivery couriers get paid through Square’s Cash App and get free accident insurance from Square.

Square is only in Nationals ballpark for now, but in the sports partnership business, one test case can often be a proving grounds and can prompt fast growth for a single app or service. And MLB is certainly eager right now to get more fans to attend ballparks in person.

Expect Square to keep eyeing sports venues as a means of expansion.

Daniel Roberts is a senior writer and live show host at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.

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