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Hamilton residents hope free WiFi in new park attracts people

As construction crews on Monday busily worked on the new Marcum Park, people who were walking around the work zone expressed approval that the city will add free Wi-Fi to the new downtown green space.

“I think people will use it,” nearby resident William Taggart said. “The park will do well. I appreciate what they’re doing.”

City Manager Joshua Smith announced during his State of the City speech on Sept. 22 that Wi-Fi would be added in two phases: this month, and early in 2017. Wi-Fi lets computers, smart phones and other electronic devices connect to the Internet and communicate with one other devices within a given area.

“The public Wi-Fi will provide visitors and vendors (like food trucks) the convenience of a reliable wireless connection while enjoying downtown’s new backyard, Marcum Park,” Smith told this media outlet, via email.

The idea of food trucks is pleasing to nearby resident Anthony Johnson, who lives near the park and said he would love it if there were a place that people who will use the park could eat at lunchtime.

Lorna Strong, who was strolling at the edge of the under-construction park with Johnson on Monday, said she’d love to be able to listen to music while in the park, and said Wi-Fi would help.

“That will draw more people who can work on their phones,” Johnson said. “It’ll probably draw more people to the park if they advertise it.”

Several residents said they would like to see even more moves like the park and Wi-Fi near downtown as ways to attract more families and young people to the area. That’s part of the plan, Smith said.

Joe and Sarah Marcum, who contributed $3.5 million to create the park, were honored in January as Hamilton’s citizens of the year for 2015. The park is adjacent to RiversEdge park and amphitheater, which regularly is host to summertime concerts along the Great Miami River.

City government will pay for the public Wi-Fi but is actively looking for sponsorships before expanding the service area, Smith said. The peak months of April through September will have much greater capacity than the colder months of October through March, he noted.

“The Internet service is provided by Hamilton company, CenterGrid,” Smith said. “The equipment costs are in the neighborhood of $7,000, while the monthly cost, including Internet service, management, and monitoring, will be $985 per month.”

Effort toward the free service dates back to City Council’s 2012 strategic plan as an effort to support existing events and spur new activities downtown.

“This effort is intended to improve our urban core as a destination for visitors and events,” Smith said. “The City was very fortunate to receive almost $4 million in private funding and almost $1 million in grant funding to develop the finest urban park in Butler County. Providing free Wi-Fi will add to the visitor experience.”

A separate network on the system will be reserved for the amphitheater’s box office and vendors during special events.

Shawn Stidham, general manager of Courtyard Marriott Hamilton, located next to the park, said he thinks the free Wi-Fi is another amenity that should make the downtown more attractive.

“We’re for anything that brings people to live, work and play in Hamilton,” Stidham said.

Photo by NICK GRAHAM/Journal-News staf

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