Makeover Gives ‘The Barn’ New Sound To Match New Video

Officially, it’s the Williams Arena, home to the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s and women’s basketball teams. Informally, though, it’s “The Barn,” a cavernous indoor venue that, since opening in 1928 in Minneapolis, has hosted whatever it has been asked to, from hockey to livestock shows.

The facility has always been a sonic challenge: the building has an arched roof, from which it derives its nickname, but the double-arch steel beams allow an unobstructed open space for the 14,625-seat capacity and the venue’s signature raised court floor.

“It’s a big room,” understates Tom Habedank, the Parsons Electric systems engineer who designed a recently installed hybrid new PA system for Williams. “It’s really tall, and, as a result, it has a pretty long RT60 [the time required for reflections of a direct sound to decay by 60 dB below the level of the direct sound] of about seven seconds.”

What makes Williams Arena unusual, though, is that, because of the interior’s dimensions, much of that reverb is in the lower frequencies. That’s serendipitous, given basketball’s contemporary connection with urban music genres: Although the designers weren’t thinking about that in the 1920s, Habedank notes, it has been a joy for the DJ the teams use to whip up energy before and during games there.

PA Addresses Three Levels
Energy is a key term in the design of the new PA system, which now includes more than 100 JBL loudspeakers. A line-array approach allows sound to be precisely directed to each of the arena’s three seating levels.

“The shape of Williams lent itself to a line-array system because the hanging points were far enough away from the seating that we needed speakers that would cover a large area,” Habedank says. “Williams has three seating levels, so we were able to direct the boxes to the different levels as needed.”

Parsons Electric installed eight line arrays, each comprising six JBL VRX932LA-1 Constant Curvature loudspeakers, along with two additional arrays of four VRX932LA-1 loudspeakers each for court coverage. The system also features four subwoofer clusters, each containing three JBL ASB6128 subs. 20 Control 30 loudspeakers are installed for upper-balcony fill; 48 Control 29AV loudspeakers provide lower-balcony fill.

“We did some level shading on the system to ensure that every seat in the arena is separated by less than a few dB,” says Habedank. “We have really nice, even coverage with the VRX line arrays.”

The system is hybrid in that the JBL loudspeakers are backed by QSC Powerlight 3 amplifiers and a Q-Sys DSP-management system. He says it was critical for the integration between the amps and the DSP to be seamless; once that was accomplished, interfacing with the loudspeakers was simple: “The Q-Sys lets us have a single data cable between the DSP and the amplifier for audio, control. and monitoring, which makes for a more reliable, predictable match.”

Each of the three zones can be discretely controlled via a touchpanel. “Williams is a multipurpose arena, so, for events that don’t require the full system, the top two levels of speakers can be turned off if only the lower-level speakers are required,” Habedank explains. “Or the top level can be turned off if only the lower and middle levels need to be reached. The system is easily configurable depending on the requirements of each event.”

Over last summer, a new Daktronics videoboard and fascia displays were installed as part of a video update. The new board is 11 ft. 7 in. x 3 ft. 8 in., with LED rings above and below the main display. The fascia extends 360 degrees around the arena.

Parsons Electric will begin work on updating the audio at the Denver Broncos’ home, Sports Authority Field at Mile High, including adding new speakers and amplifiers and updating the broadcast control room.

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