ANSWERING THE CALL AT TD GARDEN By Damian Schmalz, PE, and Ben Revette, PE
TD Garden is home to two of New England’s favorite and storied sports teams, the Boston Bruins and the Boston Celtics. The arena also hosts concerts, ice events, family shows, wrestling matches, and more. Orig- inally constructed in 1995 to replace the historic Boston Garden, the 19,600-seat facility welcomes, on average, nearly 3.5 million guests a year. It’s no surprise that since its construction, communications tech- nology has made significant advancements. Coverage at that time consisted of external cell sites leaking radio sig- nals into the stadium for a limited number of patrons with cell phones. As cell phone adoption increased dramatically, the external system was soon overwhelmed. The wireless carriers began developing internal cell sites and eventually moved to fiber optic-based distributed antenna systems (DAS) to meet coverage demand. Dewberry was engaged to support AT&T, a client the firm has worked with for more than two decades, to improve the telecommunications system and coverage throughout the interior and exterior of the arena. In 2012, Dewberry supported the original design for the interior neutral host (multi-carrier) DAS within the TD Garden that enabled visitors to use their “smart” phones, which were gaining in popularity around that time, for data- driven applications beyond just voice and texting. However, just a few years later, that infrastructure was already con- sidered antiquated technology. In today’s world, arenas are filled with smart phones and a myriad of other devices that are being used as video cameras, social media interfaces, internet browsers, food- ordering systems, and even apps to interact with the jumbotron. Data traffic, once measured in giga bytes, has grown to tera bytes of data at a single event. While AT&T and other wireless operators have worked to update their systems inside sporting arenas and large stadiums across the globe, new radio spectrum allocation and fifth generation technol- ogy standards (5G) required the system to be completely overhauled to keep pace with demand. In 2019, Dewberry was once again called in to support AT&T to bring the next generation of communications infrastructure to the TD Garden. Infrastructure that Meets the Needs of the Modern-Day Sports Fan Dewberry has been supporting AT&T in their efforts to remove old, outdated systems, and implement new systems that improve cell cov- erage and capacity throughout the entire arena, including the newly renovated suites and press boxes, concourse levels, and in the main seating areas. This project consisted of replacing the DAS radio equip- ment, antennas, cabling, and associated supporting equipment through- out the arena with updated equipment compatible with new spectrum and emerging technologies. In order to provide enough coverage and capacity to meet the demand expected, AT&T installed more than 600 antennas, nearly 200,000 feet of cabling, and eight intermediate sup- porting equipment locations.
Of all the areas where coverage improvement was most needed, the main seating bowl section was a primary objective for AT&T. This area had previously seen reduced coverage due to the physical limita- tions for antenna placement on existing infrastructure and within the arena architecture. AT&T’s solution consisted of a combination of multi-beam and single-beam antennas across the entire catwalk level of the arena. In total, the catwalk installation included 61 single beam antennas, eight multi-beam antennas, and 64 custom remote enclosures on the catwalk level of the arena. Additionally, eight new steel beams were installed to fill in gaps between existing steel infrastructure where new antenna implementation was required. To achieve their goals, AT&T turned to Dewberry to develop custom antenna mounting brackets for each of the proposed antennas; coor- dinate with arena structural engineers, system integrators, and radio frequency (RF) engineers to implement the new steel beam sections; and design custom enclosures that would meet the requirements and specifications of the radio equipment installed inside. The custom brackets were designed to accommodate in-field adjustment in both horizontal and vertical planes while minimizing size and visual impacts The 95-foot catwalk, located above the jumbotron, supports electrical and mechanical equipment above the center of the arena floor. Dewberry designed more than 75 antennas along the catwalk alone.
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