Vice-Chancellor Brigety shared the news that the University has made the decision to locate a new cell tower in the rear tailgate area of Sewanee’s Harris Stadium (football stadium).

During a community webinar on August 5, Vice-Chancellor Reuben Brigety shared the news that the University has made the decision to locate a new cell tower in the rear tailgate area of Sewanee’s Harris Stadium (football stadium). This was the original location proposed for the cell tower and approved by Franklin County Zoning Commission last year.

The most expeditious path to a long-term cellular solution is to advance the already approved cell tower.

The tower project is a collaboration led by the University, who will lease land to Vogue Towers for the construction of the cell tower. The tower will be owned, insured, and maintained by Vogue, and Verizon will be the tower’s initial cell provider. The project will bring Verizon service to the community first and other providers are expected to install later. In addition, the new tower will improve emergency communications on the Domain and off the bluff, as Vogue will provide free space to Franklin County EMS.

Brigety explained that, especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, reliable cellular service is an absolute necessity. The pandemic has created an urgency to address the inadequacy of cell service on campus. Should a resident or student fall ill, or another emergency arise, it is critical that there is seamless connectivity to reach someone for help.

Verizon is the largest U.S. wireless provider in terms of subscribers, but currently they, as well as T-Mobile, have limited to no coverage on campus. Most residents are limited to using AT&T because that is the only cell service provider with equipment installed on campus. Students have phones from various cell phone providers and should not be limited on campus to the coverage of only one carrier.

In light of concerns that members of the community expressed about the tower location, Brigety re-examined all the existing options, including the tailgate area, the replacement of a light pole at the stadium, near the water tower, at Lake Cheston, and others. The original location that was planned and approved will not require lighting, can be constructed the most quickly, and is the most efficient location to deliver cell service.  

“I am aware that there are drawbacks to this, or any, location,” said Brigety. “But this decision is in the best interests of Sewanee’s academic mission and of the larger community.”

It is hoped that the new tower will be up and providing service soon. In the short term, the University is working in partnership with Vogue to provide a temporary cellular solution: Verizon would deliver an emergency mobile tower on the back of a truck as is commonly used in emergencies when cellular service is down after weather events and other disasters.

A brief summary of the difference between the Ben Lomand fiber project and the Vogue Towers proposal: The Vogue cell tower is about improving cellular coverage for everyone in Sewanee, starting with the addition of Verizon cell phone service. The Ben Lomand fiber project is about improving the utility infrastructure to University leaseholders, specifically a modern electricity distribution system and a broadband solution for internet, security, telephone, and digital TV services.

The campus and entire Sewanee community, as well as other interested parties, were invited to join the webinar.

Questions & answers about the cell tower project