The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 28, 2013

Public Wi-Fi coming to Sportsplex

By Jean Cole
jean@athensnews-courier.com

— Athens Sportsplex users, spectators and visitors will soon have free access to the Internet.

The city of Athens Parks and Recreation Department is planning to install a Wi-Fi (wireless Internet service) transmitter at the park.

The Sportsplex at 1403 U.S. 31 North, near Interstate 65 Exit 354, is already a state-of-the-art facility with baseball and softball fields, soccer fields, an 18-hole disc golf course, a junior Olympic swimming pool and a playground. But, a Wi-Fi hotspot accessible to the public would make it even better.

The service would allow visiting teams to transmit up-to-the-minute scores and stats on their smartphones, iPads, laptop computers or other electronic devices from the park. It would allow ballgame spectators to check out ESPN scores during lulls in games. It would allow moms and dads to check their email, shop online, check social networking sites or do other Internet activities while they watch the kids at the Kids Dugout playground.

The public Wi-Fi hotspot would be located at the park’s compressed-natural gas station, which city employees will use to fuel their new CNG vehicles.

Mayor Ronnie Marks said he isn’t sure when the upgrade will be completed, but he hopes to eventually make the entire downtown a Wi-Fi hotspot for residents and shoppers.

The city had a practical reason for installing Wi-Fi at the park, to allow the Sportsplex to be integrated into the city’s fiber optic network. However, officials decided to also offer free public Wi-Fi to make the park more attractive to residents and visitors.

Public Wi-Fi hotspots are not necessarily secure, so users may want to consider adding security encryption layers to protect privacy and data.

There are currently at least six free public Wi-Fi hotspots in Athens. However, all of them are in private businesses, including McDonald’s, Best Western, U.S. 72 & Braly Starbucks, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, Sleep Inn and Comfort Inn.