Even Theme Parks Are Spending Millions On Wi-Fi To Connect Guests

If we needed any confirmation that aspects of our Digital Lifestyle investing theme are bleeding over into in-person fun, here it is – theme parks are adding free Wi-Fi. Now, in some cases, it may be to stream videos, but more likely it’s to access maps, schedules, and tickets that one finds inside a theme park’s app that can also be used to book ride and dining reservations. Let’s not forget all the picture posting to social media.

Odds are that burst of activity spread across thousands of people degrades what cell signal there is, which means Disney (DIS), Comcast (CMCSA), SeaWorld (SEAS), Cedar Fair (FUN), Six Flags (SIX) and others are spending to pick up the connective slack.

Stand by the Hyperion Theater at Disney California Adventure Park and you may be able to connect to the internet with speeds fast enough to stream a video about your day in the park.But if you try that on the boardwalk at nearby Pixar Pier, you’ll find yourself on a less-than-nostalgic trip to a pre-internet age, said Paul Barrie, host of “Window to the Magic,” a biweekly podcast about Disney attractions and other happenings.“If I’m streaming, I have to be careful where I am to get best possible picture out of the park,” he said.In this pics-or-it-didn’t-happen era, a selfie unposted represents a financial opportunity squandered for theme park operators. For that reason, parks have begun investing heavily in improving internet access for visitors, primarily by expanding their free, in-park Wi-Fi systems.“People can’t live without Wi-Fi anymore,” said Dennis Speigel, president of the Ohio-based consulting firm International Theme Park Services. “They need access to it all of the time.”The Disneyland Resort recently has been adding new Wi-Fi hot spots throughout its two Anaheim parks, and Universal Studios Hollywood said it has worked over the last two years to expand and upgrade its Wi-Fi service throughout its park. Six Flags Magic Mountain began offering free Wi-Fi parkwide in 2016.None of the parks would disclose how much they have invested in such upgrades, but industry experts say such systems can cost millions of dollars, depending on how many park guests the system is expected to serve.

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