Houston, We Have Halftime

Houston played host to the 2017 Super Bowl LI, and it seems that our city quickly returned to normal after being hit a the wave of excitement. Being located in Midtown, we weren't too close to the action at NRG Stadium, so we're glad to say we survived the influx of people that came to town for the game, as well as the increased traffic on the freeways. However, we are only a couple of miles away from Discovery Green, which was the site for Super Bowl LIVE, a free, nine-day fan festival in downtown Houston. Being in close proximity to the urban park isn't the only reason the Super Bowl kept us busy. Discovery Green is a long-time client of ours and was—quite literally—in the center of it all.

Super Bowl Live at Discovery Green

Our team created a custom website for Discovery Green in late 2012. It replaced their previous site which was built on top of a proprietary content management system (CMS) that wasn't as flexible or as scalable as they had hoped. Issues came to light during the 2011 NCAA Final Four Championship, when a similar flood of people arrived in our city.

Discovery Green was the venue for The Big Dance Concert Series, held to celebrate the basketball championship. Guests were looking at the park's website for event details, such as performances, concert times, and parking. "With 100,000 viewers in one day, our website crashed," said Susanne Theis, Programming Director at Discovery Green. "That's how we learned that increasing our resources would be important."

Discovery Green Website

When we began work designing and developing the new website we took a ground up approach. Our team was mindful that the park is a prime location for events that draw in huge crowds, and could at any point in time experience a surge. We made sure to host the site in a way that would efficiently support a traffic spike.

"When you build a parking lot for a mall, you don't do it with weekday traffic in mind," Jerald explained. "You need to account for shoppers on Black Friday or during Christmas. If you apply this thinking to how you set up your own web servers, it can get expensive really fast. Which is why hosting in the cloud makes a lot more sense."

We chose Heroku to be the best cloud platform to host sites like Discovery Green. Heroku simplifies the management of complicated websites with unique traffic patterns and third-party integrations. Hosting happens over multiple server instances, or "dynos," which balances the load when needed. Dynos can be scaled up or down, as needed, and with utility pricing we're only paying for the increase while it's being used. It's an affordable solution for a small studio.

Discovery Green Real-time Stats

During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, our team monitored Discovery Green's web traffic and gradually increased the resources until the day after the game. Our experience hosting the website during the 2016 NCAA Final Four Championship gave us a window into what to expect.

The park's Super Bowl LIVE web page listed all the details about the nine-day festival. It wasn't uncommon for this page to have over 200 visitors at any given moment. At the peak of traffic it had over 30,000 unique page views in a single Super Bowl weekend day. The park itself had an estimated 1.3 million guests attend Super Bowl LIVE. To put this in perspective, that's as many people as we saw in all of 2014." Susanne explained.

Discovery Green Real-time Stats

When building custom websites for our clients, understanding their mission and audience is essential. By learning about the park's different activities and the events that take place there, we understood that traffic to the site varies, and therefore had the foresight to monitor page views and increase resources during the time leading up to the big game. We made sure visitors could access a smoothly-running website, and were able to help Discovery Green show Houston in the best possible light. Even with the added traffic—on the park's website and Houston’s streets—Super Bowl LI went off without a hitch!