In exchange for naming rights, Microsoft is helping King County to turn Marymoor Park in Redmond into a free wireless Internet access area...

Share story

In exchange for naming rights, Microsoft is helping King County to turn Marymoor Park in Redmond into a free wireless Internet access area, King County Executive Ron Sims plans to announce today.

MSN, Microsoft’s Internet portal, will pay King County $100,000 for the first year of naming rights for a high-speed wireless access area, better known as Wi-Fi, that will cover nearly the entire 640-acre park.

The network will allow people with laptops, cellphones and other wireless devices to hook up to the Internet for free.

“People can work at the park, order a picnic, check their e-mail,” said Brooke Bascom, spokeswoman for Sims. “It’s a perfect fit, because MSN creates virtual communities, and parks are all about community.”

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks.

The new system is part of the county’s recent efforts to shore up its ailing parks budget with corporate sponsorship programs and other entrepreneurial ventures.

Sims plans to announce the deal at the park’s Velodrome Picnic Shelter at 11 a.m.

King County paid $165,000 out of its capital fund to install the wireless system, Bascom said. The naming-rights revenue will help pay for maintenance and operations of the county parks system. Bascom said the county decided to invest some money from the capital fund to generate sorely needed dollars for park upkeep.

While King County says the Marymoor Wi-Fi will be the largest free wireless-access site of any public park in the nation, it is not the only such system.

Earlier this year it was announced that Wi-Fi would be made available in 85 California state parks, and other cities around the country have tested Wi-Fi at various outdoor public spots.

In addition to naming rights for the network at Marymoor, MSN will also get naming rights to an existing Wi-Fi network at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way. It’s the latest in a slew of programs, many at Marymoor, to generate parks income.

Last year the county signed a three-year, $340,000 deal for Group Health to name the velodrome at Marymoor. It’s also offered 284 billboards in the park for about $1,000 each per year. Park users can buy a sandwich at the Subway franchise there, and tickets to the new summer concert series also help fund park costs.

At the Aquatic Center, corporations have been invited to pay to place logos along the bottom of the pool.

Bascom said that Sims plans to expand free wireless Internet access to other parks, public buildings and county buses.

Natalie Singer: 206-464-2704 or nsinger@seattletimes.com