Venue Q&A, Part 2: Denver Broncos’ Nick Young, Mike Bonner, Pat Jordan, and Jeremy Wecker
By Rick Price, Committee Chair, SVG Venue Initiative, and President, MoeBAM! Venue Media Services
Sports Authority Field at Mile High, home of the NFL’s Denver Broncos, underwent a $24M renovation prior to the 2013 season. Next month, the venue will open its doors to SVG’s annual Sports Venue Technology Summit. SVG caught up with Nick Young, supervising producer; Mike Bonner, senior director of event presentation and production; Pat Jordan, director of broadcasting; and Jeremy Wecker, manager of A/V technology and engineering to discuss favorite aspects and unexpected benefits of the renovation.
For Part 1 of this conversation, CLICK HERE.
After two seasons with the new systems, what’s your favorite aspect? What are some ways that the fan experience has improved?
Nick Young: The ability to do the full-board, full-screen take-over. It’s so impactful when you’re able to marry that with the much improved sound system that we have here. You have the right video playing at the right time, the fans can really hear and feel it. That’s probably the most exciting, impactful moment for me. You take that with all the capabilities that we’ve added to our control room — to be able to do stuff like that and synchronize with the touch of a button, whether it’s our new switcher that’s triggering our Daktronics [gear] and our [Christie] Spyder at the same time to go full board — [and] words can’t describe the feeling. You know you’re impacting the game at that point. You can hear and feel how the fans are reacting. … The playoff game we had a couple years ago, we were able to do that with our new equipment, and, having been here nine seasons, I’ve never had that feeling before. It really added to the whole excitement level all around with the videoboards and the ribbon boards all synchronized together.
Mike Bonner: The new system allows our creativity to be limitless. It allows us to put together some videos that are going to get the crowd totally amped. Whether it’s going full board on an Altitude video that gets in the head of the opponent or it’s going full board on a pump-up video for the defense, the creativity is limitless in what we can do. There are videos that we do that are a simple graphic and a voiceover read — you gotta sometimes take care of the sponsors — and then there are videos that you do and people just say, wow. To be able to create those wow moments because of our system is so satisfying.
Pat Jordan: Obviously, the shiny, glitzy LED displays in the bowl. I think they’re very impactful, I think the fans love it. I think anybody that comes into this building when that south scoreboard gets turned on, their eyes just get big. It’s pretty cool. Daktronics did a great job: the board looks beautiful, and the new 360-[degree] ribbon display was a huge impact.
From a fan perspective, and it’s probably not really known to them, but I would say the sound system. Not because our distributed system before wasn’t adequate, [but] we added more-dynamic speakers, more zones, more control. I think it has a bigger impact, but our fans don’t really realize it.
Jeremy Wecker: The board is spectacular, and I really like how that came out, but I think the system as a whole and how it all works together and how we’re able to be very versatile — one day, we’re doing an event on the field with some cameras, and, the next day, we’re doing a Broncos game, and then we’re doing a broadcast or we’re doing a Webcast.
I’m pretty happy with how much we can accomplish out of that system. It’s funny to look back at the way we were thinking and the things we thought we wanted to do and how we wanted things when we were building and designing [and compare] where we’re at today and what we’re actually accomplishing with it. We had no idea.
Have there been any surprises or unexpected benefits?
MB: The unexpected benefit is, it has allowed us to maximize our control room to the fullest potential. It has allowed us to not just be the scoreboard or event-presentation department; it allows us be the video-production arm of the Denver Broncos in all facets.
We produce videos for the Website now. We do live programming through our control room for our Website. We’re streaming live shows via LiveU that we are cutting and doing roll-ins and adding graphics and you name it through our control room. Whether it’s a show that we do from our practice facility, which is 17 miles away, for, say, the NFL Draft or it’s a road show that we’re doing from the visiting city [and] taking in a feed from whatever city that is, we’re using our control room, [and] we’re churning out an awesome product.
JW: I’d have to go back to the Webcasting and the broadcasting and how a lot of the abilities that we have now, [which] completely changed [our] organization: we’re combined with our Web guys and our TV guys, and we’re all one big unit now because we’re doing one big production. It kind of bridged the gap. We’re capable of, like, 10 times more than we were before, which is really cool.
PJ: Overall, I think we did a spectacular job with the gear that we have and being able to accomplish what we accomplish on a game day. The things that we’re doing on Broncos game day that we never [imagined]: doing the live broadcasts, the things that we’re doing with LiveU, things that we didn’t necessarily imagine that we would be doing.
In what new ways are you are making full use of the technology investment?
NY: One of the technologies we haven’t implemented yet is with our sound system; we were able to get eight channels of surround sound. We are looking to utilize that in our game day [and] come up with creative ideas. How can we enhance that wow factor of our game day?
One of the nice things for us [is], we do have the [Major League Lacrosse] Denver Outlaws in the summer. That allows us to experiment and explore some of the possibilities. One thing we do every year with the Outlaws is the big Fourth of July fireworks, and that allows us to kind of go crazy with not only the videoboards but our sound system. We’re looking to maybe implement that eight-channel surround sound with the intro to our fireworks show this year.
MB: What’s next is creating the experience that makes [fans] come to the stadium as opposed to watching it on TV. It’s giving them next-generation stats. It’s giving them engagement utilizing social media that they feel that they have a part in what’s happening in the stadium or on the screen. It’s utilizing things like route patterns that you’re able to show with telestrator-type stuff. That is the next-gen technology that the fans are going to want and [we want to] be able to give to them.
JW: We’ve already kind of outgrown the original footprint, to be honest. I’ve got the router going [laughs]. We added a first-down marker; we added all the LiveU stuff; we also added LTN Global. Nick touched on the eight-channel surround-sound audio. We’re starting to harness that. I would say we are most definitely using the gear to every drop of its potential and trying to find ways to continue to elevate our workflow and our ability to work with what we got.
PJ: Everything that we purchased is being used to its fullest potential: all video-playback machines, the graphic machines. To imagine what’s next, I think it’s kind of what will our manufacturers help develop and design for us to get more out of what we already have? What’s next [is] for those guys to help make it better for us because we’re using fully what we have.