Minnesota Twins’ Target Field: Photo Essay and Wi-Fi tests

Great sight to see when you get off the plane in Minnesota.

Great sight to see when you get off the plane in Minnesota.

During Mobile Sports Report’s visit to Minneapolis earlier this summer, we had a free afternoon so we took the public tour of the Minnesota Twins’ Target Field, home of the 2014 MLB All Star Game. Though it was a kind of drizzly day we still got a lot of looks (and tests) of the thing we came to see: The park’s new Wi-Fi and DAS networks, which were operational and since it was an empty house, probably running at full capacity for all our tests.

After a short (~30 min.) light rail trip from the airport to downtown, we dumped our bags at the hotel and hoofed it over to Target Field, staying dry by cleverly using the city’s skywalk pathways. Once at the stadium it was just a short wait for the 3 p.m. tour to start, so we cruised the Twins’ gift store where the full-body Twins jammies made us think of cold September nights.

Tech you can and can’t see

Target Field from a nearby walkway. Notice the freeway running underneath.

Target Field from a nearby walkway. Notice the freeway running underneath.

I’d never been on one of these public tours before, but our group of 7 dudes learned a lot of lore from our excellent guide Rick, who had his stats down cold. The big glove outside the stadium, he let us know, is 522 feet from home plate, the longest home run recorded by Twins legend Harmon Killebrew. That home run was hit in 1967 at the old Metropolitan Stadium, where the Mall of America now stands.

Rick started out our tour by informing us that the $600 million Target Field, which opened in 2010, has a whole lot of technology under the field, pipes that heat the field and carry water away from it; there’s no dirt on the playing field, just sand underneath a very thin covering of grass. Baseball capacity now is 38,868, Rick said, though on opening day the park had 40,000+ there. That’s great stuff, man, but what about the Wi-Fi? Though I couldn’t get a Wi-Fi signal outside the gates, once inside the network was clearly humming: As Rick took us through the press box, where there were Ethernet cords in front of each seat, I wondered how necessary those were with a reading of 59.26 Mbps down and 62.67 up as I sat in a front-row seat.

Twins jammies for those cold Minnesota nights.

Twins jammies for those cold Minnesota nights.

As one the MLBAM-led technology deployment deals (in part to get ready for the All Star Game demands) the Wi-Fi inside Target Field is mainly Cisco gear, at least those that you can see. The familiar white boxes (now with MLBAM ID stickers) are fairly ubiquitous. Since we weren’t able to get ahold of the Twins’ IT crew before our visit I’m not sure what the final AP or DAS antenna count is these days. But if you know where to look, and we do, you can see a lot of antennas around.

Dealing with outside-the-park interference

One of the interesting things we learned in our profile of the park prior to the All Star Game was that since the stadium is right downtown, the Twins and the major carriers had to figure out how to keep macro antennas on buildings outside the ballpark from bleeding into the stadium’s DAS. According to another source we spoke with in Minnesota, this year was the first year that Target Field’s DAS didn’t need any more alterations; as you can see by one of pictures here of the Ford Center, which is across the street from the back side of Target Field, there’s a lot of RF on rooftops in the near vicinity.

Inside the press box. Grandpa, what's that cord for?

Inside the press box. Grandpa, what’s that cord for?

Down near field level, the Wi-Fi was still cranking in the mid-40s, an excellent score for a place that’s normally hard to cover. Looking around I didn’t initially see any APs, with none on the wall facing backwards as some stadiums do it. Then after some more inspection I saw the source of the bandwidth, some well-covered railing APs mounted on the railing behind the 10 or so rows of near-the-field seats. On our way out I saw some of the distinctive AmpThink-designed sideways railing enclosures, for the open-bowl seating not covered by overhangs.

Though ideally we’d love to come back on a game day, from the looks of the physical placements we were able to see and the tests we took, it seems like both the cellular and Wi-Fi networks at Target Field are high performers, good news for Twins fans who need connectivity. And if you need to drown your sorrows or celebrate, there is also an in-stadium beer network, which supplies suds from main keg rooms through conduits that are definitely more tasty than copper or fiber. Prosit!

Credit all photos: Paul Kapustka, MSR


Target Field in panoramic view.


A silhouette of a Wi-Fi antenna. MSR geek art.


A Wi-Fi AP and some kind of gun antenna. Anyone know what that is?


You bought it, you put your name on it.


Another panoramic view, showing how close downtown is.


The Ford Center is across the street from the back of the park. We’re guessing those macro antennas on top had to be tuned to keep their signals from interfering.


Not Wi-Fi, but a network worth building for thirsty fans.


Anyone want to test download speeds of these pipes?


Great quote overheard in Minnesota: “It takes a lot of wire to make a park wireless.”


Tour guide Rick getting set to take his “team” out on the field. BUT NOT ON THE GRASS!


The railing APs that cover the field-level seats.


An AmpThink railing enclosure. Rick didn’t know what those were, but he does now.


Nice hardware in the Twins’ high-rollers club area.


Our tour didn’t get to see inside, but we can guess what’s behind that door.


If you can hit one here, the Twins want to talk to you.


That’s about as close as MSR will ever get to being in “The Show.” Until next time!

AmpThink brings Wi-Fi to Mall of America: So far, 486 TB of data used by 320K unique clients

Bloomington, Minn.-based Mall of America. Photos: Mall of America Instagram page.

Bloomington, Minn.-based Mall of America. Photos: Mall of America Instagram page.

Lately the sports stadium technology business has seen some big wireless-usage events, like Super Bowl 50, WrestleMania 32 and the Kentucky Derby, where fans keep setting records with terabytes of wireless use. We know it’s not a stadium, but now that we have some stats from the new Wi-Fi network AmpThink installed at the Mall of America, prepare yourself for a new level of consumption: How does 486 TB of traffic used by 319,995 unique clients over 793,750 total wireless sessions grab you?

Granted, not all this traffic happened in a single day during a single event (it’s the total since the network went live just before Thanksgiving in 2015) but still — we’ve always said that the large-crowd connectivity problems seen in stadiums would likely be replicated in many other large public venues like convention centers, casinos and malls — and now, thanks to AmpThink, we have some proof.

We haven’t yet visited the Bloomington, Minn.-based Mall of America, which calls itself the Nation’s Largest Mall even though according to Wikipedia it is the second-largest shopping mall in the country behind the King of Prussia Mall outside Philadelphia. (If there’s a mall-size expert out there, please let us know the stats.) Bottom line: Mall of America is huge, as it has an in-mall amusement park and the multiple levels of indoor shopping, which seem to make sense in Minnesota, where it can get brutally cold in wintertime and hot in the summer. It also seems to make sense that people will increasingly want Internet connectivity while shopping, for both economical reasons (how many of you have searched the price of something on your phone while at the mall?) as well as standard reasons while at a large public venue like help getting around, finding things like parking, restaurants and friends.

Old Met Stadium site gets new Wi-Fi… and Cisco StadiumVision

So on the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium in the Twin Cities, there’s now a Cisco-based Wi-Fi network which, if the stats mentioned above are any proof, is quite popular with shoppers. According to AmpThink, the network covering the mall’s 5.6 million square feet of space uses more than 600 Wi-Fi access points in addition to 236,600 feet of CAT6 cable, and 7,920 feet of fiber optic cable. Though we’re guessing that a mall may have infrastructure that allows for easier deployment of antennas, and not as much interference issues as a bowl-shaped stadium, apparently there was some new thinking necessary to cover the multiple mall levels with connectivity.

Minnesota Vikings cheer team tryouts at the mall.

Minnesota Vikings cheer team tryouts at the mall.

“The Wi-Fi network we built for the Mall is not just big, but complex,” said Bill Anderson, President of AmpThink, in a prepared statement. “Our Radio Frequency engineers were challenged to develop new methods to calibrate frequencies in order to optimize performance for shoppers as they move in a massive space that has four distinct shopping levels and a large administrative level.”

And again — while it’s not a stadium the mall is taking advantage of technologies honed in the crucible of stadium use, including Cisco’s StadiumVision system for digital displays, which in a mall situation most likely has multiple uses for its ability to have centralized control of content being pushed out to the TV-like displays throughout the facility. AmpThink also said its management of the network includes use of Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experiences (CMX) to enable the mall to use things like device location data for customer engagement and analytic insights, such as the stat that mall guests who use the Wi-Fi network are staying for an average of 3.5 hours per visit to the mall.

With 40 million annual guests, we can’t wait to see the year-long Wi-Fi stats when they are totaled up. For now, it seems like the mall is happy with its choice of technology deployers:

“AmpThink has been a key partner in facilitating the connected experience for our guests at Mall of America”, said Jill Renslow, SVP of Marketing and Business Development at Mall of America, in a prepared statement. “Their industry experience and relationships were instrumental for our Wi-Fi installation, and we look forward to additional growth in innovation and a continued partnership with their team.”

Any other big malls out there with new Wi-Fi installs? Let us know!

UPDATE: Thanks to Andrew vonNagy of Revolution Wi-Fi LLC for the MoA Wi-Fi pictures below!