Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown bringing in Wi-Fi this year

Dave Stewart dstewart@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 10, 2016

Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown is going wireless.

City council passed an $11.26 million capital budget at its monthly meeting Monday night and will be setting some of that cash aside to bring Wi-Fi to Charlottetown's largest arena complex.

"It would bring us up to the sport and entertainment and social media standards that these venues should be,'' said Dave McGrath, general manager of EastLink Centre.

He isn't prepared to say exactly how much it will cost because staff members are still in talks with more than one Internet provider. Suffice it to say that outfitting an arena with Wi-Fi can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $3.5 million, although it's a pretty safe bet the actual cost for Eastlink Centre will be a lot closer to the first figure.

McGrath said work on bringing Wi-Fi is already underway. They hope to have it up and working no later than the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft, which takes place June 4 at Eastlink Centre.

The cost for Wi-Fi varies, depending on factors such as how many people might be using it at any given time. This weekend, for example, Eastlink Centre will put through an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people for Islanders hockey games, the Island Storm basketball and the RV show in the Trade Centre. Thus, it would have to be strong enough for that many people.

"It's for the complex as a whole. When we have trade shows on the trade centre side . . . we certainly need to have Wi-Fi for those providers that are in the various booths to be able to carry out their business. We'll also have a system in place once Wi-Fi is up so that people can order food from their seat.''

There is an app called VenueMenu that allows people to order from their seat at Eastlink Centre, but McGrath said it's very hit and miss.

Coun. Melissa Hilton, chairwoman of the city's finance committee, said Wi-Fi was one of the big asks from staff at the arena.

"It's pretty crucial, especially with them holding the Q draft this coming year,'' Hilton said, adding that there is also money in the capital budget for some exterior paint at Eastlink Centre.

It is welcome news for fans who attend a lot of games at the complex.

"I've got to be honest, I always found (Internet) service in the rink not great. One second I can check the hockey scores; the next (my device) won't load anything. I can't even text,'' said Curtis Martell of Belfast. "(Bringing) Wi-Fi to Eastlink Centre is a great idea.''

On Twitter, Zoe Hewison also gave the news a thumbs up.

"That's good to hear. I can never get a signal there. They really need it,'' Hewison told The Guardian.

McGrath said the Wi-Fi system will be one that can be adjusted, depending on what is taking place at the complex. In addition, it will be a split feed, meaning the public will have access but there will be a secure feed for staff for things like ticket scanners.