Hamilton

Pokémon Go inspires city councillor to ask for free wifi at Gage Park

There was that Battlefield Park incident last week. But mostly, the city says it's thrilled that people are flocking to its parks to play Pokémon Go.

There was a parking problem at Battlefield Park, but mostly, the city is thrilled gamers are visiting parks

Gage Park has become a popular place to play Pokémon Go. Now one city councillor wants to offer free wifi there. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

They convene in open spaces by the dozens. Sometimes they clog parking lots. But mostly they're harmless, looking at their screens, using lures and trekking miles to catch their targets.

You can tell when someone is playing the game versus someone walking down the street checking texts and emails. It's a different type of stagger.- Jason Farr

And now, one city councillor with a Pokémon Go hotspot in his ward wants to encourage people to play there by putting in free wifi.

Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, wants free wifi in Gage Park, a popular around-the-clock spot to play the mobile game.

"Pokémon trainers from far and wide have been gathering in Gage Park in their quest to catch 'em all," Green said in his upcoming motion. In the process, they're "enjoying one of southern Ontario's best green spaces."

He wants the city to spend money from cell tower revenues to install public wifi on a trial basis.

Dozens of Pokémon Go players descended on Battlefield Park in Stoney Creek last week, says the city's manager of parks and cemeteries. It created a parking situation. (CBC)

He's not the only politician thinking of asking for it. Jason Farr, Ward 2 councillor, represents Bayfront Park — perhaps the biggest Pokémon Go hotspot in the city.

It was more like, 'What's going on here? Why is everybody here?'- Tennessee Propedo, city's manager of parks and cemeteries

"You can tell when someone is playing the game versus someone walking down the street checking texts and emails," he said. "It's a different type of stagger."

"At night, with the glow of the devices on the faces of the hunters, I am reminded of zombies staggering about."

Farr says he loves it because people are mingling and enjoying the city's parks. So he likes Green's idea. If council is going to talk about putting wifi in parks, he said, he wants to see it return to Gore Park.

The game has caused one minor incident in Hamilton so far, said Tennessee Propedo, the city's manager of parks and cemeteries.

The city has issued guidelines for safely playing Pokémon Go. (City of Hamilton)

Last Friday at 2 p.m., about 80 people suddenly descended on Battlefield Park in Stoney Creek looking for a rare Pokémon. They stayed for about 45 minutes. It drew more cars than there were parking spots.

"We had to call bylaw to help us get the parking situation under control," he said. "Some of them were rude to my staff when we asked them not to park in the fire laneway."

The crowd waded through the gardens looking for the Pokémon, he said.

There was "a little bit of trampling but no major concerns. It was more like, 'What's going on here? Why is everybody here?'"

But Propedo said he's happy to see it, and encourages it.

"It's getting them out and getting them into parks and getting them to walk around and have fun," he said. "Before, they'd be sitting in front of the computer."

The city has spent "a lot of time and energy over the years" to make the parks enjoyable so citizens will use them, he said. And now they are.

There was another recent large hunt at Gage Park, organized on social media.

"Everyone was being respectful," Propedo said, "and having a walk and having some fun hunting for their Pokémon."


The "Digital Inclusion" motion

Whereas, wild Pikachus have been spotted in Gage Park,

Whereas, Pokémon trainers from far and wide have been gathering in Gage Park in their quest to catch 'em all while enjoying one of Southern Ontario's best greenspaces,

Whereas, our vision is to the be the best place to raise a child and age successfully, and our priorities are community engagement and participation; healthy and safe communities; built environment and infrastructure in order to provide innovative and well-maintained public spaces that serve as places for community activity,

Whereas, Hamilton was ranked in the top 21 in the world by the Intelligent Communities Forum of which digital inclusion, including access to public wifi, is noted as an area necessary to reduce the digital divide,

Whereras, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board has introduced iPads in classrooms as a part of a broader initiative to introduce wifi in public schools,

Therefore be it resolved:

That staff be directed to report back on the feasibility to implement a pilot project to install public wifi in Gage Park, funded directly from ward specific, non-property tax revenues in the Ward 3 Account #3301609603 (Bell Mobility cell tower revenues).

now