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Volume 21 No. 1
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Cubs develop wireless network to reach beyond Wrigley to adjacent development

The Chicago Cubs have developed a new wireless communications network aiming to match the quickly mushrooming size of their Wrigleyville complex.

Working with California-based DAS Group Professionals and cellular carriers T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint, the Cubs are developing for the 2018 season a distributed antenna system that will serve not only Wrigley Field itself but also the new Park at Wrigley, the club’s office building and team store, and the forthcoming Hotel Zachary.

The new network, separate from similar efforts to improve Wi-Fi service at Wrigley Field, is designed in part based on systems installed at Levi’s Stadium and Golden 1 Center in California, facilities widely cited as among the best in the industry for mobile connectivity. Cubs executives were not able to specify a projected upgrade in user speed, but said the new network would be far stronger and better able to handle surging mobile demand among fans, particularly for uploading photos and videos and participating on social media.

The Cubs want to improve connectivity at the Park at Wrigley (foreground) and forthcoming hotel (right), shown in August.
Photo by: ERIC FISHER / STAFF
The Cubs’ move also veers away from a wireless consortium MLB Advanced Media developed over several years with each of the main U.S. mobile carriers and began to roll out in earnest in 2015. The Cubs were not part of that initial rollout due to renovations at Wrigley Field.

As that construction work has continued and prior cellular contracts have expired, the Cubs have chosen to design and control their own wireless system. About a third of MLB clubs have made similar choices. The MLBAM consortium, however, remains in place and has helped generate broad-based increases in mobile connectivity around the sport.

“We’re really looking at all of this development work as much more of a campus, and we really wanted to have a cellular network that approached this in the same way,” said Andrew McIntyre, Cubs vice president of technology.

Costs to install the new distributed antenna system were not disclosed, but are part of the overall 1060 Project that is projected to near $1 billion when the expansive multiyear work is complete. Verizon is the only one of the four major U.S. cellular carriers not part of the Cubs’ DAS network, but McIntyre said that negotiations continue and that he remains optimistic that a resolution can be reached with Verizon before opening day.