City looks to improve cell coverage at Balloon Fiesta Park

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - From hot air balloons at Balloon Fiesta flying over crowds from around the globe, to the Freedom Fourth celebration and wine festivals, events at Balloon Fiesta Park draw masses of people and those crowds love to use their phones to document the experience. 

"You're taking a lot of photos. You're wanting to text them to your friends, communicate where people are," said Susan Rice, CABQ Parks and Recreation. 

However, with so many people in one space, that is a challenge. 

"The cell coverage out here does not accommodate that kind of usage," said Rice. 

She said getting good cell coverage has been a process. In the past, cell companies have brought in what they call "cells on wheels" to help with the signal, especially for first responders.

Now, the city has been approached by Verizon to provide a better solution. 

"Adding some semi-permanent antennas out here to boost their coverage during these events," said Rice.

Balloon Fiesta Park has 12 light poles along vendor row, and in this proposed lease plan with Verizon, the company wants to put small cell towers on six of the poles. 

"They'll be non-invasive and it will be very helpful and it will have great coverage," said Rice.  

Verizon will also have a small building onsite to support the antennas, and will replace the lights on all 12 poles with led lights to hide the cell towers. 

The project won't cost the city a dime. In the proposed contract, Verizon would pay the city $18,000 a year for five years. 

It's unclear what kind of exposure or advertising Verizon would get with the deal. City Council's finance committee will review the proposal Monday night. 

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