Cell phone upgrades are in place ahead of this weekend’s season opener for the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

Busch Stadium, St. Louis

AT&T has enlarged capacity by 60% through it’s the Distributed Antenna System (or DAS) compared to last year’s Opening Day.

John Sondag with AT&T Missouri says the DAS enhancements shorten the distance a call or text must travel, making it less likely for them to get stuck in network “traffic jams”.

“Think of the stadium as a pizza” said Sondag.  “You can cut it up into six pieces, big pieces and no matter how many fans are in that sector, that capacity has to serve all of them.  And what we’ve done is, instead of having six slices, we’ve sliced this up to maybe 11 or 12.”

Sondag says DAS technology is employed at other sports venues in Missouri, such as Kauffman and Arrowhead stadiums in Kansas City and the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, as well as the University of Missouri Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.

Last year, Busch Stadium used 925 gigabytes of mobile data on the AT&T network, which is equal to 2.6 million selfies.  Sondag says the explosion of smartphone usage, video uploads and social media postings constantly challenge network capacity.

“It’s just created this significant growth and demand on our network” Sondag said.  “We’ve spent about $1.6 billion over the last three years in our networks in Missouri just trying to keep up with this demand.”

The enhancements at Busch Stadium are designed to solely handle wireless traffic during games.  “You would have to put up, I don’t know how many poles and towers around there (outside the stadium) to try to get the capacity (otherwise)” said Sondag.  “And 95% of the time it would be wasted capacity.  So that’s the beauty on trying to build in-building systems that can be utilized to handle the crowds when the crowds are there.”

The improvements were made specifically for use by the 3 million people who attends baseball games at Busch Stadium every year.  They do not impact AT&T’s other operations in Missouri which are handled through a vast network of cell towers and poles.

Sondag notes a lot of the upgrades to wireless capacity at the venues are done in partnership with other providers, who will share equipment and expenses.

Agreements with the venues themselves vary, with some footing a portion of the expense for wireless upgrades as a service to patrons, while others charge providers for any changes to service.

The Cardinals have a strong relationship with AT&T according to the baseball club’s Senior VP of Sales and Marketing, Dan Farrell.

In a statement, Farrell said “As the Official Telecommunications Partner of the St. Louis Cardinals, AT&T and the Cardinals have had a long and successful partnership over the years.  The Cardinals appreciate AT&T’s commitment to invest into Busch Stadium to enhance the game day experience of our fans.”

Safety may also play a factor in further enhanced wireless communication access.  A MetroLink light rail platform outside the stadium was the scene of a shooting which took the life of a homeless man March 19th.

The Cardinal’s season opening game at Busch Stadium is Sunday at 7:35 p.m.