The Clackamas County Fairgrounds and Events Center may be well over 100 years old, but its historic buildings and barns are outfitted with the latest in fiber-optic technology and wireless internet capabilities — thanks to DirectLink.
Strategic Account Manager Levi Manselle explains that the fairgrounds team first approached DirectLink several years ago to explore ways to improve the event center’s wireless capabilities for staff, vendors and the general public at large events.
“The No. 1 priority was ticket sales and internal use by staff,” Manselle explains. “They were having intermittent issues with their wireless providers, and they needed to make sure ticket sales would go smoothly.”
While DirectLink and its contract partners have well over a decade of experience laying fiber-optic cable and connecting thousands of members to high-speed broadband across its 100-square-mile service area surrounding Canby and Mt. Angel, it’s fair to say the historic fairgrounds property presented some unique challenges.
Its grounds were first laid out more than a century ago, and many of its buildings and barns date back to around that time. Some of them weren’t originally designed to accommodate phone lines or electricity — let alone high-tech fiber-optic telecommunications cables.
“It was a pretty big challenge,” Manselle admits. “With the fairgrounds, you’re dealing with such a rich history there. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill deal where you run down to the electronics store and grab a couple of extra wifi access points.”
Manselle credits the DirectLink and fairgrounds teams, along with their contractor, Canby Excavating, with handling the installation project in a way that preserved the grounds’ historical and cultural value.
The team also approached the project carefully and deliberately, dividing it up into phases.
“We started with the rodeo and the main pavilion, where they really needed the support for ticket sales and broadcasting events,” he says. “We set up permanent access points there for the fairgrounds.
“We’ve since built out to Horning Hall, Ely Arena, the 4-H building and some other structures, all interconnected with fiber and wireless access points throughout. With every part of the property and every building, there’s some nuance to it. But the end result is they’re going to have great coverage for large events.”
“Enhancing our wifi allows us to better serve our patrons and vendors, those who accept credit cards, with a more robust and reliable network concentrated in the busiest portions of our fairgrounds,” Fair Director Brian Crow agrees. “That’s critical for business operations these days — and it’s a convenience for people.”
As with everything during Covid-19, the pandemic revealed new and greater needs for wireless and broadband technology to help ensure the fairgrounds could best serve the community.
When the Clackamas County Fair and Canby Rodeo was confirmed for 2021, the request came in from The Cowboy Channel to live-broadcast each night of rodeo.
The capability to stream ultra-HD 4K and 8K video in real-time was certainly not something the rodeo arena’s original builders would have been contemplating in the early 1950s. But again, DirectLink was up to the challenge.
“We tested it out, and with a little bit of tweaking we were up and running,” Manselle recalls. “They had sellout crowds most nights and were able to broadcast to homes around the world from right here in Canby.”
Manselle also credits the technology itself with helping ensure DirectLink and its members stay ahead of the curve on the ever-increasing data needs of today’s interconnected world.
“If it weren’t for our fiber infrastructure, we wouldn’t be able to support tens of thousands of users,” he says. “Every little bit helps when you’re talking about that level of demand. You have to be extremely thoughtful and strategic.”
Crow praises Manselle and the DirectLink team for respecting the fairgrounds’ historical significance and rich legacy while helping lay the groundwork for new growth and opportunities.
“It is kind of this cool juxtaposition of history meets the present as well as the future,” Crow says. “But that’s really where we’re at right now: positioning ourselves to be able to meet the demand for major events now and well into the future, and that means connectivity.
“DirectLink has been great from beginning to end. They’ve been a fantastic partner in this, and Levi does a really great job of explaining the technology and how it all works.”
The project is continuing, with Manselle estimating that DirectLink is more than three-quarters of the way finished with laying fiber and installing access points across the fairgrounds property.
The company is also working with Crow and other large events that are coming to the fairgrounds this summer, like Harefest, to ensure their needs are met.
For more information about DirectLink, visit directlink.coop or call 503-266-8111 in Canby or 503-845-2291 in Mt. Angel. To learn more about the company’s fiber rollout, check out www.directlink.coop/internet/fiber.
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