SBD/April 29, 2013/Facilities

Churchill Downs Installs New Wireless System In Collaboration With AT&T, Mobilitie

Churchill Downs sought to improve cell phone service for this Saturday's Kentucky Derby
Churchill Downs has partnered with Calif.-based wireless infrastructure provider Mobilitie and AT&T to install a new distributed antenna system (DAS). The project involved more than 100 small antennas and about 35,000 feet of fiber, some of which was buried or hidden out of view to maintain the facility's traditional look. While AT&T was directly involved, the new system is designed to be carrier-neutral and other companies will be able to access the system before next year's Kentucky Derby. But the immediate focus was to improve cellular service for this year's event, scheduled for Saturday, and the more than 150,000 people it will draw. Mobilitie has also been involved in similar projects for the Rays, Bobcats and Blue Jackets, among others. Mobilitie President Christos Karmis said, "This project was a little different and had some particular challenges given that some of the areas on the grounds are temporary structures, and are only up for the Derby and other big events. The infield also presented a different type of installation than a typical stadium. But we expect to see a big enhancement in the fan experience for the race as a result of this" (Eric Fisher, Staff Writer). Karmis said that AT&T at this year's Kentucky Derby is the “only wireless carrier that has chosen to use the new series of fiber wires and antennas.” Verizon Wireless and Sprint spokepeople on Friday said that the carriers “opted not to connect to the antenna system and chose to beef up capacity in other ways” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 4/27). Karmis said that the "two-month installation of the network was completed last week." The "cost of the network was not disclosed" (BUSINESS FIRST OF LOUISVILLE, 4/26 issue).

RUSH WEEK: In Louisville, Gregory Hall in a front-page piece writes Churchill Downs has been “able to boost its Kentucky Derby Week profits” by $15.3M over the past five years “by charging thousands of dollars for the right to buy tickets -- and charging hundreds, if not thousands, more for the tickets themselves.” About 55% of CDI's Derby week profit “comes from admission to the track -- which includes premium tickets that this year can easily cost hundreds of dollars, seat licenses costing as much as $75,000 and fees of as much as $50 to get into the Derby infield.” The tickets alone "represent nearly half the profit.” Churchill Downs Chair & CEO Bob Evans said that the Mansion seating area is “virtually sold out.” The track also is “adding a temporary, stadium-style 3,000-seat area in the clubhouse turn near the former Marquee Village, where tickets were priced up to $698 per person for a two-day package that included food and beverage” (Louisville COURIER-JOURNAL, 4/29).
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