Stadium lights contracted out to cell phone company

By Clark Jacobson

If you go to the northwest corner of the football field and look up you’ll see a large metal box attached to the pole holding up the stadium lights. The box contains equipment that transmits data to many cell phones around the area, and belongs to a company called Clear Wireless.As it turns out, companies like Clear Wireless (an affiliate of Sprint) covet our towering poles.

Terry Gorman, Macalester’s Director of Security provided the reason why.

“Companies are always looking for high places to put these things up,” Gorman said. “We decided it was a good deal for us and a good deal for them.”

Clear Wireless has a contract with Macalester allowing them to use the new northwest stadium light as a fixture to which they can attach transmitting gear. They chose the lighting as it provides an optimum height (90-100 ft.) for their equipment to function.

They aren’t the only company capitalizing on Macalester’s structures. A multitude of companies over the years have placed their gear atop the school’s tall poles. Quest, the local phone company, has been a client, as has Sprint.

In fact, both the northern and southern stadium lights, along with the northwestern one now, are homes to these transmitting towers.

“These things are just some sort of an income stream [for Macalester],” Gorman said.

Gorman works with the companies to get equipment to the site, acquire access and power to the poles and even construct the fixtures, as the equipment on the ground that supports the transmitters requires quite a bit of “real estate.”

There seem to be few future opportunities for these kinds of easy deals as most of the poles already have transmitting devices on them and there’s no room at the base of the poles for the ground equipment. The transmitters can’t be placed anywhere outside the football field because the stadium lights are the tallest accessible fixtures at Mac.

“We’re pretty much out of real estate now,” Gorman said. “At some point we just have to say ‘Sorry, we just don’t have any more room for that.'”

Still, Macalester remains open to new prospects and clientele should they present themselves.

“If it’s advantageous to the college and it doesn’t interfere with our activities, then it gets reviewed by the administration and they make the decision that it’s a good idea.