Yankee Stadium Sound Is Simplified, Flexible

When the YES Network moved into its new digs at Yankee Stadium 2.0 last year, it left a lot of baggage behind at the old facility. Most of it was decades’ worth of audio technology, with various eras overlaid like some kind of high-tech archeological dig.

“Every time a new broadcaster would come in, they’d bring their own cables. For instance, when ABC had Monday Night Baseball years ago, as well as several regional and local broadcasters, [they] all brought in cable but never took it out,” recalls Jack Kestenbaum, director of technical operations for the Yankees’ YES Network and a 40-year veteran of sports broadcasting. “The [old] stadium was 80-plus years old, so you can imagine how much cabling was in there. It was a real kluge.”

The broadcast plant at the new stadium is considerably streamlined. Stereo audio for standard-definition video and matrixed Dolby 5.1 for hi-def are addressed as two discrete AES feeds via fiber from the Bronx to YES’s Stamford, CT, headend. At the stadium, most effects audio is routed through the scoreboard-operations room and then fed in separate streams to all distributors (except Internet-based) via a Telecast fiber system. The broadcast-program audio mix is distributed to in-stadium suites and clubs over a Cisco Systems IP network.

Monitored by Yankees’ Director of Broadcast Operations Mike Bonner, the audio system was designed by stadium architect HOK Sports. The final design was based largely on input solicited from local broadcasters, including YES, and national broadcasters, such as ESPN and Fox.

“All the audio, including the effects microphones, is collected by the scoreboard operation, which is the central hub for all the media in the stadium,” says Kestenbaum. House microphones are a combination of Sennheiser and AKG shotguns. They are augmented by additional EFX microphones brought in by Fox Sports for event games, such as the playoffs and World Series.

Simplifying audio operations was based in large part on the creation of a single-track system both in Stamford and at the stadium, enabling telecasts to be populated with audio elements for stereo or surround sound using Dolby E compression as well as an SAP program source.

As convoluted as the layers of the old stadium’s broadcast history were, that’s how simple the new design is. Signals from EFX microphones, such as the on-field parabolic and crowd-ambience mics, travel analog via XLR from field level via Cat 5 cables to an eight-channel Telecast BBX-RX “Baker box,” which converts the signal to AES and sends it to the house Evertz router to be fed wherever it’s needed.

Besides the broadcast trucks, one of those locations is the press-conference room, where, in years past, multiple broadcast entities would run their own microphone cables. Instead of the traditional nest of microphones in front of the podium, a single microphone now sends an analog signal to the scoreboard-control room, where it’s converted to AES digital and embedded with the video signal. The muxed signal is then routed to the broadcast-truck area.

To Let the Players Hear the Music
There’s an interesting change under discussion for the live sound on the field this year. Yankee Stadium, like many of the new parks, has a bowl-type acoustical configuration, meaning that all the PA speakers face the seats and away from the playing field. As a result of this design, during pre-game workouts and when players, who can choose their own walk-on music “stings,” approach the plate during the game, the music would need to be cranked to painful levels for it to also be heard on the field. The solution under consideration would be to reposition the bat-crack EFX parabolics previously mounted on the dugout fences farther back and in their own enclosed boxes, then use that freed-up space to install four speakers on a single amplifier facing the field.

“The systems keep getting tweaked as we go along,” says Kestenbaum, “but everything is designed to make the audio at Yankee Stadium and on YES as flexible as possible.”

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