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Viejas Arena

George Petersen • InstallationsMarch 2020 • March 11, 2020

The 23-year-old system in the 12,414-seat Viejas Arena was due for an upgrade. Photo by Kbuttysd

Sound Image Provides an Upgrade for San Diego State University’s Aztec Bowl

One of America’s premier on-campus indoor basketball arenas, Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl at San Diego State University provides a 12,414-seat, state-of-the-art venue while keeping fans close to the floor and part of the action.

Built in 1997, the Viejas Arena is the home of San Diego State University’s Aztec basketball team and provides a venue for university functions, cultural events, concerts and other special-event programming. The arena is constructed on the site of the old Aztec Bowl stadium, which hosted San Diego State football games as well as other athletic, entertainment and cultural events from the time of its construction in 1936 until 1967.

In addition to basketball and other college sports, Viejas Arena is a popular entertainment venue. With a concert capacity of up to 12,845, it’s been a host to many major artists, including Linkin Park, Van Halen, Lady Gaga, Kiss, Metallica, the Foo Fighters and this month, a touring production of Cirque Du Soleil’s Ovo.

One of the VUE a-8 line array hangs ready for flying.

‡‡         Getting Started

The facility features a $2.3 million center-hung Daktronics scoreboard with modern features including up to the minute statistical information on individual players. Recently, Viejas Arena called on Sound Image Integration, the contracting division of this Parnelli Award-winning, Southern California-based sound company, to handle the project management, design and engineering of a new, modern P.A. system for the venue.

Sound Image’s director of operations Dave Paviol installed the arena’s original speakers 23 years ago and was called back — this time to oversee the entire project of removing the old system and replacing it with VUE Audiotechnik al-8 Acoustic Linearity Line Arrays. VUE Audio’s Brandon Rinas assisted in fine-tuning the system.

“The previous system was more than 20 years old and was a custom rig based on Sound Image-designed trap boxes with JBL components and QSC amps,” says Rinas. “It had served its purpose, but it was time for it to go.”

“We’ve have had a long relationship with arena production manager Tom Granucci,” adds Paviol, who was onsite throughout the entire project. “The VUE system we spec’ed in there was right for the venue and their budget. It seemed to fit the bill; we are right in the area near VUE, so we could get what we needed quickly — and the product sounds great.”

A 120-foot boom lift made the work easier and safer for all concerned.

‡‡         The System

In all, some 112 VUE Audiotechnik al-8 array elements were installed, along with eight hs-28 dual-18 subs and new racks with 28 VUE Audio v6-d power amps. The entire installation took two weeks, with a couple spillover days for tuning the system.

“The 112 boxes are in 12 clusters, with two of those being for court foldback aimed directly at the court for cheerleaders and players,” says Paviol. “We supplemented that with the eight subwoofers, which fire through the bleachers, giving them some rockin’ bottom-end for walk-on/walk-off music, halftime shows and so on. Most of the bleachers are concrete, but the bottom rows are the push-in/push-out styles, which allowed us to conceal the subwoofer arrays. Those are intentionally placed under the section for student seating,” he added with a laugh.

The amplifiers live in the catwalk area in swing-frame racks that were there from the original installation. Sound Image also selected a QSC Q-SYS control system. According to Paviol, “This allows simple zoning of the P.A. system — half court, full court, no foldback, only foldback — anything they want, we can do with a Q-SYS touch panel. Q-SYS is becoming our go-to for AV control. It’s very flexible and easy for us to add any presets they may want.”

The arena is used for graduations and also events where people are seated on the court and only certain sections of the bowl. “It’s all divided into 12 zones, with five zones going up and 10 zones going all around, with easily accessible presets for the different bleacher sections,” Rinas explains. “For example, we can run the court fills for a practice or a banquet, where they bring tables in and we can shut off the bowl and just use the overhead fills. On occasion, if a tour comes in and they sell more tickets than they expected, they can line up certain fills with delays — it’s great for covering upper seats.”

The pathway is entirely digital from the console, with Dante converted to AES, with automatic changeover to analog drive should a fault occur, such a switch going bad in the digital pathway. The system is also on generator e-power and can toggle over to a fire alarm audio source if the alarm is actuated and will continue to run under emergency power.

On the installation side, “it was a relatively easy project, says Rinas. “What we modeled in EASE is pretty much how it came out. A room like that could have taken two or three days to tune, but we had it pretty much dialed in after a single 6-hour session.”

With any install, there are a few complications along the way. In the years since the arena was built, some structural additions were made that hindered the Sound Image crew’s workflow. Metal rods installed throughout the arena ceiling prevented the lifts from getting into ideal positions to dismantle the old speakers and install the VUE al-8 clusters. Paviol solved the issue by using a JLG Industries 1200SJP Ultra Series Telescopic Boom Lift with a 120-foot platform height, a 75-foot horizontal outreach and a 1,000-pound platform capacity that allowed the crew to rise up at a better angle to access the hang points.

Ten 10-box arrays hung throughout the venue provide even coverage to all seats

‡‡         Fan Reactions

“Some good friends of mine have been attending Aztec basketball games there for years. One of them called me to say that it now sounds amazing in there. When the crowd is cheering and they announce a switch-out, the game announcer is still as clear as day. And they’ve never experienced that much low-end in that room, which adds a lot of excitement to the game,” notes Rinas.

“I don’t want to say the new system had anything to do with it, but SDSU’s basketball team has been on a winning streak ever since the VUE system went in. I wouldn’t take credit for that, but maybe the ball travels through the air and into the basket better with line array technology,” he laughs.

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