At the Ballpark: Iconic Dodger Stadium Gets 21st-Century Sound System
$100 million renovation retains much of the venue’s mid-century design
Although Major League Baseball is continuing with a 60-game regular season, the pulse of what makes professional baseball exciting will remain at home. In the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 30 in-venue departments are forging ahead with operations inside empty stadiums. SVG’s At the Ballpark series takes you behind the control-room door and examines what it’s like to produce a fan-less venue experience in 2020.
Dodger Stadium, MLB’s third-oldest venue, reopened on July 23 following a reported $100 million renovation, which includes a new Centerfield Plaza that serves as the stadium’s “front door.” An important feature of the project is a PA system that’s ready for primetime in the 21st century.
The mid-century stadium, originally constructed in 1962 and one of the last remaining of that classic design, retained many of its signature architectural characteristics, such as the folded metal roof over the centerfield pavilion, inverted canopies, and abstractly shaped urns and topiaries at terraced entrances.
The new sound system installed in the renovation comprises two towers holding a total of 62 K2 speakers, 31 per tower, with 20 K2s as main arrays and 11 K2s as side arrays. For low-end reinforcement, 21 SB28 subs are positioned on the left tower, with three on the right. Twenty coaxial X8 loudspeakers serve as left and right fills for the renovated left- and right-field pavilion, and 32 L-Acoustics LA12X amplified controllers — paired with a single P1 for AVB networking and processing — power the full spectator loudspeaker complement.
The new sound system was designed by consulting firm Idibri and installed by integrator Pro Media Audio & Video.
The new PA, the first L-Acoustics system to be installed in an MLB stadium, was designed to enable the venue to be used for a wider variety of functions and to keep it competitive with other MLB and sports venues, which have been upgrading their live sound in recent years, says Derek O’Hara, director, planning and development, Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Our goal was to have the best sound a baseball stadium could possibly have,” says O’Hara, who has a background both in architecture and as a scout for the team. “Dodger Stadium is designed the way ballparks were at the time it was built, with point-source sound systems that need to throw long distances. We wanted to modernize the stadium’s sound, allowing it to host many different types of events besides baseball, while keeping the park’s architecture as traditional as it has always been.”
The K2 was chosen for its ability to make the long centerfield throw — more than 600 ft. from the outfield arrays to the top-deck seating — with full phase coherence, intelligibility, and impact, he adds.
Keeping Sound Inside
There were also other considerations around the new PA choice. The Chavez Ravine neighborhood around the stadium has grown in the past six decades, so keeping the sound in — including the system’s more powerful low end from its new 28-in. subwoofers — was important to conform to local noise ordinances.
“They had the subwoofers arranged in an endfire configuration, which provided some critical directionality to the low end, keeping it from escaping the stadium walls and keeping the impact on the seating,” explains Idibri Senior Consultant Ryan Knox. “Twenty-one subs were placed in an endfire configuration in groups of three—two subs placed horizontally and one vertically—on one side of one tower in the new outfield area, with three more on the other side. It kept the impact that they wanted but was able to better fit the new architectural design we had to work with. Pattern control and projection were critical for keeping as much sound as possible inside the stadium, so the subwoofers were arrayed in a quadrapole endfire configuration to provide three-dimensional pattern control and steering.”
The sound-system design is also an integral part of preserving the ballpark’s classic architecture and integrating modern live-sound technology. The stadium’s original single tower to support loudspeakers has been replaced with two towers, each 30 ft. taller than the previous one. These hold 31 K2 speakers each, with the subs arrayed to the side of the leftmost tower and providing uniform coverage throughout newly configured fan areas.
These areas include five new entrance plazas on three levels of tiered seating, bar areas overlooking both bullpens, two new HD video screens, and wider concourses. Many of them are covered by L-Acoustics Kiva II enclosures in the welcome area, plus some A15i and X8 speakers in the new Centerfield Plaza. L-Acoustics’ amplification and P1 processing also use Avnu Milan-certified AVB networking, reducing cabling, enhancing system communication and control, and further future-proofing the venue’s sound infrastructure.
According to Knox, the significant architectural changes to the venue, particularly in the outfield area, created the biggest challenges for the sound-system design. The new stadium configurations put more seating in that area, posing a coverage challenge. That was resolved with L-Acoustics Soundvision modeling software, which was used to finalize the locations of the speaker-support towers. “That was a two- to three-month process itself,” he says.
Putting systems of this scale into the Los Angeles area comes with its own unique requirements. Says Demetrius Palavos, project executive, Pro Media Audio & Video, “In addition to keeping the sound-system installation’s look consistent with the architecture of this iconic stadium, we also had to meet the seismic requirements of Southern California.”
The Dodgers believe that their new PA system is hitting it out of the park. “We feel we have the best sound system in major-league baseball,” says O’Hara. “We’re excited about it.”