Verizon Wireless has proposed building a new cellphone tower — disguised as a television tower — at Saratoga Casino and Raceway to boost capacity in that part of the city.
Cellco Partnership of Rochester, operating under the Verizon name, applied to the city last month for a zoning use variance to put a 103-foot tower on the back side of the raceway grounds at 35B Nelson Ave., near some of the horse barns.
The variance is needed because cell towers are not allowed in the institutional horse track zone where the harness track is located.
Verizon would lease a 50-by-72-foot parcel that would include the “stealth” tower, a shed to house communications equipment and a 1,000-gallon propane tank, according to the company’s application.
“The communication facility would not negatively impact the character of the neighborhood due in part to the applicant’s proposal to design the structure to look like a television tower similar to the existing television towers at the flat track,” the application states, adding the tower would extend just above the existing tree line.
The tower would improve Verizon mobile phone and data service on the east side of the city, including at the casino, the thoroughbred track and nearby homes and businesses, the company said in its application.
“Although wireless communications service currently exists in the general surrounding area, the service is not reliable and adequate in the proposed service area, especially during hours of peak use,” the application says. Service in the areas of Nelson Avenue, Jefferson Street, Crescent Avenue, Crescent Street and Gridley Street is especially weak.
A new tower would allow the company to provide its faster fourth-generation data service to customers, said John O’Malley, a regional Verizon spokesman. Verizon debuted its 4G service in Saratoga Springs in 2010.
“We need to add capacity to stay ahead of the consumer demand,” O’Malley said. “When a site reaches capacity, what you see is you’re not able to connect as easily as you could.”
Two other towers in Saratoga Springs also serve that area — one in Saratoga Spa State Park and one at the corner of Division Street and Railroad Place downtown — but trees and buildings limit coverage.
Also, the downtown tower gets heavy use already, the application states.
“The huge amount of network usage generated along Broadway and in the [downtown area] leave this site in desperate need of capacity offload.”
Saratoga Casino and Raceway already has one cellphone tower on the property, said Rita Cox, vice president of marketing and external affairs. Multiple service providers use that tower, which is off the parking lot, she said.
Verizon has been looking to add a tower in that area of the city for several years. In 2010, Cellco proposed building a 90-foot monopine cell tower in a lot at 81 Nelson Ave., across from the flat track. Some neighbors objected to the way the tower would look in their residential neighborhood, and that project did not move forward.