Some Hawk Fans Searching for Cell Service at Kinnick
By Forrest Saunders, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - During Hawkeye football games it’s no secret cell service can chug for some wireless users. Officials at the University of Iowa said it’s also impacting a program designed to keep people safe.
Since '09 the University of Iowa has been telling people who spot trouble in Kinnick Stadium, like an unruly spectator or public intoxication, to text UI Public Safety at a special number, 83648. People are asked to type the word ALERT, followed by the issue, then the location in Kinnick.
"It allows them a relatively inconspicuous way to let us know of issues and keep everybody around them safe, so that everybody has a great experience," said UI Event Management Assistant Director Josh Berka.
But some have said sending those alert texts, or any message for that matter, can take too long-- or not happen at all. Officials point to service from some wireless providers, which can be hit or miss at Kinnick when it's hosting tens of thousands of people and their phones.
"I've never been able to get phone calls out. Certainly, texts are always delayed," said Matt Timmons, an Iowa fan from Manchester.
Berka said cell sites are becoming overwhelmed with data, which is slowing things down. Some fans are left frustrated.
"Well, it's not exactly the safest thing. We had some people before that had been pretty rude around us and getting in fights. We tried calling it. Nobody ever gets a hold of anybody," said Jen Panther, another Iowa fan from North Liberty.
Berka thinks poor service could be one of the reasons UI Public Safety receives only five or six alert texts per game, even though the stadium sees crowds topping 60,000.
"We share, certainly, in the frustrations. At times, as staff, we have troubles communicating with one another," said Berka.
Officials from Verizon Wireless said to help their customers, they've added a permanent cell site at Kinnick, plus during games an additional mobile cell site is setup. The company confirms it's also interested in putting a distributed antenna system in the stadium to boost service further, in the future.
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