A hidden addition

courtesy of John Vaughn • The final steps of installing a cell tower atop East Immanuel Church took place Jan. 29. The church is leasing space on the top of its bell tower to Verizon for a cell phone antenna.

Passing by East Immanuel Lutheran Church along Payne Avenue, one might notice that something seems different, or maybe not. It’s not very noticeable, and that’s the point. 

The church had a cell phone antenna added to the top of its bell tower on Jan. 29.

It’s been a four-year process, said Ted Thorson, East Immanuel congregation president, beginning when Verizon first contacted the church. 

Thorson said Verizon was making plans to add equipment to increase coverage on the East Side when the cell phone company reached out to the church. Because of the height and prominence of the bell tower, it was an ideal place for Verizon to put an antenna. 

Thorson said at the time Verizon also had ideas to construct a cell tower on land near Arlington Hills Community Center, but ultimately chose the church.

Thorson said “we really grilled them” about how the antenna would look when Verizon first approached the church, pointing out the congregation obviously didn’t want something that looked odd or stood out. 

Congregation leadership toured other buildings with cell antennas on them and Thorson said that in most cases, you wouldn’t know they were there unless someone said something, easing the few concerns the congregation had.

Verizon presented the church with potential designs, including the addition of a cross on top, something the congregation hadn’t mentioned, but thought was a nice touch.

Thorson said the original designs matched the brick work perfectly. But local and statewide historic preservation groups said the antenna and original brickwork couldn’t match perfectly, and wanted a slight difference so that people knew it wasn’t a part of the original 125-year-old church. 

While Thorson wouldn’t disclose how much Verizon pays the church to lease the spot, he said it does provide an income boost for the church, which is dealing with a dwindling and ageing congregation, a common trend for churches across in the metro and beyond.

He said he was a little surprised by how long the whole process took. He said about two years ago the cell phone carrier came and installed electronic equipment behind the building.

Otherwise, he said the process was smooth and Verizon was very flexible.

“The congregation felt very informed,” Thorson said. 


Beefing up infrastructure 

With the final installation happening so close to the Super Bowl, it could seem like efforts to increase data coverage were related to the big game. 

While Verizon was unable to confirm whether this particular addition of the antenna was planned to be finished before game day, the company did share, in a recent press release, its efforts to increase coverage across the Twin Cities. 

Added infrastructure included 24 new, permanent cell sites, more than 230 permanent small cell sites, as well as technology to increase data capacity near Nicollet Mall, the airport, U.S. Bank Stadium and the Mall of America. 

Verizon spokesperson Meagan Dorsch said that either way, “It’s a win-win for customers.”


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.

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