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Sports Facility Projects

Thomas S. Friedman • InstallationsMay 2019 • May 8, 2019

Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Baseball Stadium

Recent Sound Systems Maximize the Fan Experience

Today, from high school and college games to NBA and NHL events, sports-goers expect to hear music playbacks and play-by-play announcements with pristine clarity and intelligibility — all at rock ‘n’ roll playback levels. In such cases, tired, old arena center clusters or stadiums ringed by paging horns are no longer the standard. And beyond sound quality, flexibility is now also an essential part of the equation, as facilities embrace the multi-use concept. In many cases, the sound system must provide the versatility to handle any task from graduations, lectures, concerts — and of course sporting competitions. With that in mind, here are some recent audio upgrade projects — each of which succeeded by applying the right gear in the right situation.

Sound for the home of the NBA Philadelphia 76ers is fittingly covered by 76 L-Acoustics K2 enclosures backed by two dozen K1-SB subs

Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA

Another view of the speakers serving the nearly 20,000-capacity venue.

Attendees catching games by the NBA Philadelphia 76ers, NHL Philadelphia Flyers and AFL Philadelphia Soul will enjoy an enhanced fan experience thanks to $250 million in upgrades underway at the Wells Fargo Center. In addition to new amenities, this multi-use venue is now also served by expandable AVB networking connectivity for transmitting high-quality audio along with system control and monitoring.

With new lounges boasting large-format video displays and other perks to help get Philly’s sports fanatics off their couches and back to the arena, one centerpiece of the venue’s renovation is its new L-Acoustics K2/K1-SB sound system. Designed by solutions provider Diversified, from Kenilworth, NJ, the system featured significant input from Dallas-based sports-design consultant WJHW (Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon and Williams).

The new audio system has two flown arrays of 12 L-Acoustics K2 three-way, full-range enclosures covering each long side of the arena, with four arrays of 13 K2 covering the ends and corners. Six arrays of four K1-SB subwoofers are flown in an end-fire configuration behind each K2 array to support low-end impact for enhanced LF directivity in venue. The subs are spaced and time-aligned to maximize both forward directivity and rear LF rejection.

The lightweight, powerful K2/K1-SB system provides consistent coverage and high SPL to every seat in the house while not interfering with sightlines to video screens.

“The K2 system hit all of the main points for this project — like power and coverage — while providing the performance this installation needed within the project’s budget guidelines,” says Diversified’s Justo Gutierrez. “But just as important,” he adds, “L-Acoustics was also the choice of the exceptionally knowledgeable Wells Fargo Center operations staff.”

In addition to the main arrays and subs, two flown arrays of L-Acoustics’ ARCS WiFo enclosures offer coverage across the bowl floor, with each fill array composed of one ARCS Wide and three ARCS Focus enclosures. Three more hockey fill sources are used at the ends of the ice around the dasher boards, each comprising three ARCS Focus.

The full audio system is powered via 37 L-Acoustics LA12X amplified controllers and two LA4X, all integrated using Cisco Catalyst AVB-enabled network switches and L-Acoustics’ new Q-SYS control plug-in on an Ethernet-based network. Arena staff can switch between dedicated setups for different game days and even trigger emergency evacuation messages with just the press of a button, via a customized Q-SYS control interface.

From the start, Diversified and its partners designed the system to handle the arena’s current and future needs. A new scoreboard — touted by venue owner Comcast Spectacor as “the first-ever Kinetic 4K center-hung entertainment system” — is planned, and the K2 system design/installation would have to provide for that future addition.

The L-Acoustics system also offers flexibility when the venue is used for non-sports activities. The arena’s K2 and K1-SB are flown on motorized hoists, and individual groups of speakers can now be quickly flown out to the grid or dropped back into play position to improve sightlines or to support various venue configurations, unlike the facility’s previous dead-hung clusters.

The L-Acoustics K2 system selection also reflects another key trend in the sports-venue sector. Arenas and stadiums are increasingly called on to host entertainment events and to feature audio system choices based on the same criteria that concert touring does — full-range musicality and clear intelligibility.

“The L-Acoustics K2 system is truly a concert sound system, and that’s what venue operators are looking for now,” says Gutierrez, who notes the K1-SB subs have brought articulate, powerful low-end performance to the Wells Fargo Center. “Consumer expectations are changing. Great sound is part of fan engagement. They want concert-level sound in the stadiums and arenas, and L-Acoustics scores big in that regard.”

The audio mix for Wells Fargo Center’s new sound system is provided via a DiGiCo SD9 desk in the house sound booth

Wells Fargo Center

  • Built: 1996
  • Capacity: 19,500
  • Key Components: L-Acoustics K2/K1-SB system; DiGiCo SD9
  • Design: Diversified
  • Integrator: WJHW (Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon and Williams)


Paolo Mazza Stadium, Ferrara, Italy

Paolo Mazza Stadium now features an all-RCF system

Since its inauguration in 1928, Ferrara, Italy-based Paolo Mazza Stadium has been home to SPAL, the town’s pro soccer team. Last year, the sports venue that serves as the team’s home celebrated its 90th anniversary. A major refurbishment in 2018 greatly expanded the stadium’s capacity while modernizing its seating configuration and technical systems. The improvements included a comprehensive overhaul of the audio system, which now meets FIFA standards.

After a building phase lasting three months, the stadium, located in the city’s center, can now handle 16,000+ fans, double the capacity offered during the 2016/17 season. The refurbishment project included the P.A. system, lighting, seating and stands. The West Stand, where fans supporting the home team congregate, was extended and now features a new roof, as does the junction to the main stand. The East Stand was also extended.

All stands and club-level seats are now served by 40 RCF P 6215 Installed Sound series speakers, driven mostly by RCF’s high-power, 4-channel QPS 9600 amplifiers. Routing is via two RCF DX 1616 matrix audio processors over a Dante network. The control room houses a Black Box ControlBridge Touch7 unit, a Xilica 7-inch touchscreen and a Xilica Rio R44P 4×4-I/O Dante unit.

Another 20 P 6215 enclosures cover the two main spectator stands (10/each), while 16 are dedicated to the east and west seating and another four cover handle the pitch area. All installed loudspeakers are set up in pairs, with separate control available for each pair.

The amplifier system employs two control units, one for the South and East Stands and the other for the North and West Stands. Each control unit uses a DX 1616 audio processor and three 4-channel QPS 9600 power amps. The two control units connected using glass fiber cabling. Data transfer is accomplished using two separate VLAN networks: one handles the audio data using the Dante protocol while the other transfers control data for system management and programming. The glass fiber cables run in a loop around the field, providing redundancy for the connection between the two control units. A Touch7 touchscreen housed in the stadium’s control room is connected to the two glass fiber cables, offering system control. Audio signals destined for the amplifiers are routed to the Dante network using the R44P.

Using the Touch7, operators can independently raise or lower the volume of any sector covering the stands or pitch. The system also offers a number of Mute functions. These include full, stadium-wide Mute (for security reasons this function is also available via two voltage-free contacts on one of the control units), a number of Mute options for individual stadium sectors as well as muting for each speaker pair. If needed, speaker pairs located near the edge of the pitch can be muted without affecting the speakers serving the rest of the stand.

Developed by the RCF Engineering Support Group, the system was installed by Ferrara-based integrator Suono e Immagine, with Ivan Franco Bottoni serving as project leader. RCF optimized the system for best possible performance and speech intelligibility, attaining outstanding Speech Transmission Index (STI) values.

The venue doubled its capacity with an expansion in recent years.

Paolo Mazza Stadium

  • Built: 1928
  • Capacity: 16,134
  • Key Components: RCF P 6215 speakers
  • Design: RCF Engineering Support Group
  • Integrator: Suono e Imagine


Cathedral Catholic High School, San Diego, CA

The facility hosts a variety of athletic events, and also weekly mass services

Cathedral Catholic High School upgraded the sound system in its 14,000 square-foot multipurpose gym, which has a 26-foot-high ceiling, brick walls and bleacher seating for up to 3,500. Looking to improve speech intelligibility for weekly mass while also providing audio horsepower for game night exuberance, Pine Valley, CA-based Essex Sound specified a hybrid line array configuration combining VUE Audiotechnik al-4 and al-8 line array elements.

“This is a challenging space with a lot of reflective surfaces and a demanding weekly schedule that can go from high-energy to very nuanced in a matter of hours,” says Essex owner Larry McNamer. “The P.A. needed to throw 100-feet to the back wall and also sideways into the bleachers. We also had to cover a second-story walkway behind the bleacher area while avoiding slap off the back wall.”

The final design includes left/right arrays, each comprised of six al-8 elements above four al-4 subcompact elements for near fill. Three al-8SB flyable subwoofers are flown with each array in a cardioid configuration to minimize LF incursion onto an entry concourse directly behind the clusters. For additional near-field coverage down the center of the gym, the Essex team flew a single h-12W high-definition two-way speaker.

Two VUEDrive V4 series and four V6 series systems engines provide power and processing for the arrays and subs as well as full networking via SystemVUE software. Onboard VUEDrive electronics ensure the single h-12W is integrated into the network.

On choosing VUE, McNamer puts sound quality at the very top of his list. “The sound of the beryllium drivers is extremely clear in the vocal range, which is exactly what the client wanted. Overall, the VUE array is much more distinct and detailed than the other name-brand systems I considered for this install. The difference is amazing.”

Of course, success comes by way of happy clients, and McNamer is quick to share that, in that respect, this project is a slam-dunk. “Our clients were amazed at the overall clarity and power of the system, as was the entire faculty. Whether for a weekly mass or sporting event, the feedback overall has been universally positive.”

Each of the main P.A. hangs has a hybrid array with VUE al-4 and al-8 line arrays and three al-8SB subs in a cardioid configuration.

Cathedral Catholic High School

  • Built: 2005
  • Capacity: 3,500
  • Key Components: VUE Audiotechnik al-4/al-8 line arrays
  • Design: Essex Sound
  • Integrator: Essex Sound


Russ Chandler Stadium, Atlanta GA

A main P.A. serves the stadium for game days, while a smaller system is used for practices, to avoid disturbing the neighbors.

Georgia Tech fields a mean team of Yellow Jackets baseball players that has posted numerous NCAA Division I conference championships. The team practices and plays all of its home games at Russ Chandler Stadium, a 4,000-plus seat stadium originally built in 1930 and massively renovated in 2002.

Like everything on the Georgia Tech campus, Russ Chandler Stadium is nestled deep inside Atlanta’s Midtown area. This adds urban excitement and a great skyline view, as well as the specter of noise complaints from nearby classroom buildings and businesses. Gainesville-based A/V firm dB Integrations recently gave Georgia Tech two Danley-based sound systems for the stadium: one for game day that includes a beefy Danley SH96HO loudspeaker and an even beefier Danley BC415 subwoofer and one for practices that uses a more modest Danley OS80 weatherized loudspeaker.

“The Yellow Jackets had a dated sound reinforcement system mounted on a 25-foot tower behind center field,” says Ronnie Stanford of dB Integrations. “The audio quality was poor, and the system had zero low-frequency extension. The situation called for a complete re-do, and we were careful to build game-day and practice systems that would help the team avoid noise complaints. In addition, we designed and installed a whole new front-end in the press box, along with simple practice control from the home dugout.

“The Georgia Tech facilities managers were already familiar with Danley Sound Labs because they heard a demo for the football field a few years ago,” Stanford adds. “They didn’t want to mess with a distributed system – they wanted high fidelity, great intelligibility and solid punch from the center field tower. Danley boxes pack a lot of output into a small frame, which allowed the Yellow Jackets to hit a budget and minimize the system footprint while still meeting all of their objectives.”

All 4,000-plus seats stretch from approximately first base to approximately third base, and a single Danley SH96HO mounted on the old tower hits all of them perfectly with minimal spill above or to either side. The Danley BC415 subwoofer also provides significant low-frequency power and directivity, which again helps satisfy the close-quarters requirements for the stadium’s new system. Two Danley DNA 20k4 Pro amplifiers — one for the SH96HO and one for the BC415 — each deliver four 5,000-watt amplifier channels with comprehensive DSP and custom presets for the boxes. In the press box, four Shure ULXD wireless receivers paired with handheld mics feed an Allen & Heath SQ-5, along with various playback devices.

“The computer science building is just behind the bleachers, and even with the new Danley boxes, a fair amount of low-end energy makes its way there,” Stanford says. “When the tower system is on, there’s no doubt it’s on. So that the team could still enjoy practicing to music without bothering students and faculty in the computer science building, we installed a totally independent practice system.”

The practice system uses an iPhone jack and a volume knob in the dugout to feed a Danley OS80 weatherized loudspeaker. Stanford positioned it at the back of the stands behind the visitor dugout behind the first base side. “Now, the field is nicely covered without disturbing the neighbors.”

Georgia Tech’s Russ Chandler Baseball Stadium

Russ Chandler Stadium

  • Built: 1930
  • Capacity: 4,000+
  • Key Components: Danley SH96HO/BC415; Allen & Heath SQ-5
  • Design: dB Integrations
  • Integrator: dB Integrations


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