Allegiant Stadium Becomes Raiders’ New Fortress on the Las Vegas Skyline
Located near the Strip, the venue has the latest in control room technology
The Autumn Wind, a poem written in 1974, has become a mantra for the franchise, and its stanzas reflect the team’s efforts in completing Allegiant Stadium amid the COVID-19 pandemic: unfazed by the obstacles, the Las Vegas Raiders and their partners remained confident and unflappable. With a full-IP control room and a black-glass exterior featuring the largest outdoor videoboard in the league, the new venue is a perfect fit for the Silver and Black in Sin City.
“Our exterior wall, which is around 350 ft. wide by almost 80 ft. tall, is the largest outdoor board in the NFL,” says Justin Lange, manager of audio, video, broadcast, and Cisco Vision operations, Allegiant Stadium. “There’s no reason to install a baseband control room now since that’s not what’s going in any venue. The decision to go IP is because it’s the future.”
A Matter of Chemistry: Alpha Video Tapped as Integrator
One of the NFL’s newest stadiums is nearing completion, but, before the edifice progressed to its current state, the plan was put in place by a familiar company. Lange, who previously worked with the Minnesota Vikings, recruited Alpha Video to integrate the brand-new control room.
“I’ve worked in just about every control room that Alpha has installed in the Twin Cities,” he says. “I’m very familiar with their work. It was a really easy transition to come out here and know the integrator on the AV side.”
With a chemistry based in past projects, the process of erecting Allegiant Stadium started off on the right foot. The team tapped local company The Morse Group as its licensed contractor, and its staffers have been heavily involved. But, in a time when construction has continued despite the ongoing pandemic, Lange relied on the familiarity of Alpha Video.
“There was some newness to [working with a new contractor], and they’ve turned out to be great,” he explains. “But having Alpha was a no-brainer. They have made things super-slick and smooth.”
Rising IP Tide: Venue Continues Emerging Trend of Full-IP Control Room
As in-venue production evolves, technologies are always changing. One in particular, IP, has attracted the interest of in-venue professionals for quite some time. While other production teams continue to plan how they will gradually move away from SDI and baseband models to workflows based on IP, Las Vegas’s new sports venue will move forward with a full-IP backbone. In a space that comes with a slew of hardware and software, diving deep into the IP waters was the best option.
“We have an infrastructure with a ton of single-mode fiber everywhere,” notes Lange, “so there’s a lot of flexibility that we have with video transport on an IP router. We’ll be able to send three signals down a single fiber; you can do three sends and three receives over a duplex pair.”
Inside the control room, an Evertz EXE 2110 router and three EVS IPDirectors are at the center of the IP foundation. The IP network is able to control 12 Panasonic PTZ cameras located throughout the stadium.
Despite the strong base, it’s not easy being among the first to produce a videoboard show over IP. “It’s more difficult to conceptualize and deal with [IP],” notes Lange, “but, ultimately, that’s where everything is headed. If you’re installing a new control room and you’re going to spend $7 million to $8 million, you might as well make it an IP solution because, in five years, we’re not going to have a single baseband install out there.”
In addition to the IP-flavored technologies, the control room is filled with other deployments as well. Notable highlights include a Ross Video Acuity 8RU and 4ME Panel production switcher; multiple EVS XT3 servers featuring 12 1080p inputs, one super-slo-mo input, and three 4K inputs with Epsio Zoom control; Riedel Bolero wireless intercom and Artist 128; and 250 TB of Quantum NAS storage.
Las Vegas Lights: Massive LED Videoboards Allow Symmetrical Content
Although IP is the headliner of this build, the large-scale videoboards are no slouch. At 8-mm pixel pitch, these LED displays will project content with precision and clarity. A mesh LED board will handle material outside the stadium, and a trio of boards — one on the South side of the stadium, two on the North — will take care of duties on the inside. The three videoboards will be the driving force, with a playout that will be similar for fans sitting anywhere in the stadium.
“The South board is just a little over 250 ft. long and 48 ft. high,” says Lange. “The North boards will both be a little over 120 ft. long and 48 ft high. The 16×9 aspect ratio on both sides is exactly the same, so we will be able to match some of that content from the North boards to the South board.”
Along with these gigantic displays, the venue is also outfitted with a 30-ft.-high x 10-ft.-wide marquee at the 15-yard line and nearly two full rings of ribbon boards that are 112 pixels tall.
To showcase the action on the videoboards, the Raiders will use the Panasonic PTZs and seven Sony 4300 manned cameras (five hard, two handheld) that will be dispersed throughout the venue.
Unified Venue Control: Ross Video Seamlessly Merges Control Room, Videoboard Workflows
Aside from their Acuity switcher, Allegiant Stadium is packed with other products and solutions from Ross Video. For maximum flexibility, the company’s Unified Venue Control is integrating control room production with all LED displays and other facets of the building through their Dashboard system. This solution allows for complete management of all Ross products and products like LED accent and field lighting, IP TV, and more.
Back in the control room, the Raiders in-venue team will leverage six channels of XPression Studio IP 2110, Ultrix IP conversion and routing, and Carbonate Mosaic for video processing, and compositing. Throughout the stadium, Ross Video’s XPression Tessera is feeding all LED displays with pre-rendered and real-time 3D graphics in the bowl, concourse, and exterior boards.
Relying on What You Know: Experience With U.S. Bank Stadium Gives Raiders an Inside Edge
Constructing a $1.84 million venue is a difficult yet rewarding task to accomplish. Completing two massive undertakings of this size in four years (U.S. Bank Stadium in 2016) is definitely a feat. Luckily for Lange, his time in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area has given him not only a strong relationship with Alpha Video but an invaluable blueprint for bringing this idea from paper to reality.
“I think we’re going to be in really good shape when we start using this room, because of the experience that I had dealing with U.S. Bank Stadium,” he says. “Everyone was on board for some of the great things that I wanted to duplicate [from Minnesota] and adjust some of the things that were kind of a pain. It’s just about taking all of that knowledge and putting it into effect here.”
In an endeavor of this magnitude, there are always logistical and technological hurdles along the way. When it came to resolving an issue with equipment, an important lesson that Lange derived from his past was one of financial nature.
“We were able to be really strategic with our money, which is another great part about working with Alpha Video,” he says. “They know I’m not trying to pull one over on them, and they were 100% willing to work with me on this. We used a little strategic magic to make sure that we’re taking money away from things that we don’t need and allocating it to things that we do need. Ultimately, it’s just about being a decent person and explaining your reasoning in trying to get things done.”
Throughout his time in Minnesota, Lange was an integral part on U.S. Bank Stadium Broadcast Operations Manager Tadd Wilson’s team. In Las Vegas, he turned to Wilson as a source of advice and guidance.
“I called him a lot just to get advice on, ‘Hey, we need a change order, and nobody’s willing to do it at this point. How should I approach this?’ says Lange. “I’m a tech guy, so I learned everything I know about how to get things done on the business side from him. He has a lot of experience working for Daktronics and then at the University of Minnesota and now finally at U.S. Bank.”
Raider Fashion: Envisioning the Future of Allegiant Stadium
Similar to what went into building the new home for the Black Hole, Lange had several hurdles to overcome in making it to Las Vegas. In true Raider fashion, he overcame them to push this ambitious project over the finish line.
“I joined [the team] in late February of this year but headed back to stay in Minneapolis for a couple more months with my family,” he recalls. “It has been a long process, and it was a challenge, but we battled. Every day is a new challenge with the new things we’ve got to deal with, but [my team and I] have been doing this for years.”
There is still some work left to be done on the venue before it hosts the Raiders’ first season in the desert. And despite the fact that preseason games have been canceled and fans will not be in the stands in 2020, there is a still an opportunity for Lange and his team set the stage for a glittery future in Allegiant Stadium.
“We have a bunch of toys to play with, so this an opportunity to buckle down and make sure that everything gets finished up properly,” Lange says. “It’s extremely disappointing that we’re not going to be able to have fans in the building for year one, but we’re going to use this time to get a good handle on how the system works and make improvements before anyone ever sees the inside of this building.”
The Las Vegas Raiders will face the New Orleans Saints in their inaugural game in Allegiant Stadium on Monday, Sept. 21 at 8:15 p.m. ET.