Venue News: Fenway Houses NHL Regulation Rink; Verizon Boosts Wireless Network for Broncos Fans

For the second time in three years, a National Hockey League regulation rink has been constructed for public and private use at Fenway Park. The rink stretches across the infield from dugout to dugout, measures 200 by 85 ft., and the thickness of the ice on top of the ice paint is an inch-and-a-half. The tradition began in 2010 when Fenway Park played host to the NHL Winter Classic match between the Bruins and the Philadelphia Flyers on New Year’s Day. Fenway Sports Management expanded on that experience with a stand-alone venture called Sun Life Frozen Fenway 2012, a 16-day event that includes free public skating with eight high school and six collegiate men’s and women’s hockey games. Unlike 2010, when the NHL handled the logistics, Fenway management is keeping the installation, upkeep, and scheduling an in-house project. The entire endeavor will be financed via ticket sales for some of the high school games and all the college contests. Fenway Sports Management hired Rink Specialists of Chesapeake, VA, who have had to contend with heavy rain, direct sunlight, and unseasonably warm temperatures that have recently hit the area…

…Verizon has teamed up with the Denver Broncos to equip the stadium with an advanced wireless system that should boost its network capacity by three times. As part of the $10 million project, Verizon placed the equivalent of four cellular towers in a building next to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, installed 210 directional antennas, and laid 7 miles of fiber-optic cable. Verizon also is spending about $2.5 million on a Wi-Fi system that will give subscribers access to a mobile hotspot at the stadium. Before the upgrade, Verizon data connections were routed through three off-site cell towers. Verizon network engineer David Born said the carrier’s “blocking rate,” or ratio of connection failures, increases during home games as thousands of fans cause bottlenecks on its wireless network. The distributed antenna system should expand the stadium’s wireless network highway; every seating section will be served by box-shaped antennas located in stadium overhangs and other areas. Verizon officially launched the system on Sunday after testing during two home games. The Wi-Fi component that will give Verizon subscribers free hotspot access is expected to launch in February…

… From the sidelines of Sunday’s finale, Minnesota Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley noted the end of the team’s lease at the 30-year-old Metrodome. The team, however, is expected to be back next season. As the only remaining major tenant at the Metrodome, the Vikings aren’t being pushed out through the turnstiles, but Bagley is trying to use the lease’s expiration as a catalyst for legislative approval of a new stadium. The team has avoided direct threats to move, and in a one-page ad in the game-day program, the Vikings said, “We’re not looking for a new home. Just a new house.” The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission operates the Dome and Chairman Ted Mondale also serves as Gov. Mark Dayton’s lead stadium negotiator. Both Mondale and Bagley said the deadline may have passed for the team’s goal of being in a new stadium at the start of the 2015 season. It is assumed the Vikings would play in the Metrodome until their new home is ready…

…With a decision from the county property appraiser looming, city attorneys are digging into state law to argue that Miami-owned garages at the new Marlins ballpark should not be assessed property taxes. Miami says it should not have to pay property taxes on the four parking garages it built at the new Little Havana ballpark for the Miami Marlins. City officials believe they have nearly four decades of court rulings on their side saying that stadiums serve the public good. And if the garages are integral to the stadium — the stadium would likely not have been built without parking — then the garages should also be considered a benefit to the public, they say. The Florida Constitution says that for a government-owned property to be exempt from taxes, it must be used solely for a public purpose. According to the Miami-Dade property appraiser, letting the Marlins pay the city $10.03 a space to use the garage’s 5,700 spaces for the team’s 81 home games each year constitutes having a private enterprise operating on public property, and as such, could be subject to taxes amounting to approximately $1.2 million per year.

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