Tech Focus: Venue Sounds, Part 2 — The Pandemic Didn’t Slow Sonic Progress
New sports venues boast systems designed to attract music tours
The pandemic changed a lot of things about sports but didn’t slow the pace of new construction or refurbishment of stadiums and arenas. For example, just since COVID-19 brought sports to a screeching halt, SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles and Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas opened their gates, at a combined cost of $6.9 billion with another $10 billion or so expected to be spent on sports venues by the end of the decade. And that’s on the heels of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee in 2018 and Chase Center in San Francisco in 2019.
Alongside the construction, venue sound systems continued to progress, in terms of both sales and technical development. The sound system has become a foundational component of facility design, particularly as music touring returns and venues seek to be on every touring show’s destination list.
“People look at the sound-system specs of venues now in a way they didn’t even a decade ago,” notes Dan Palmer, business development manager, sports facilities, USA and Canada, L-Acoustics.
Here’s a sampling of some of the latest venues and their newly installed sonic apparatus.
Audio, video, acoustics, and broadcast systems at Climate Pledge Arena, home to the NHL Seattle Kraken and WNBA Seattle Storm, received a complete makeover last year. Included is a new JBL line-array PA system from Idibri, a Salas O’Brien company.
At University of Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium, ESPN analyst Chris Fowler observed during the live broadcast of the Louisiana State University football game on Nov. 6, 2021, “I think they can hear this music in the blimp.” Commented ESPN College GameDay analyst Kirk Herbstreit, “They did not put in cheap speakers when they redid [the stadium].” The sound system features Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers and subwoofers.
Fan experience was key for the audio upgrade at T-Mobile Park in Seattle. Major considerations for integrator Diversified, which installed a d&b audiotechnik xS-Series PA system there in 2020, were speaker placement for coverage, throw distance, and building structure, with new fiber run throughout.
After doubling the size of the video display for the scoreboard Crusader Stadium at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, TX, Daktronics deployed Fulcrum Acoustic’s new digitally steerable AHS modules to fit in the limited remaining space. “Even when stacked, Fulcrum’s AHS products easily fit within the space provided,” says Daktronics Applications Engineer David Sturzenbecher.
A new Meyer Sound Leopard line array, integrated and installed by Alpha Video, is the keystone of a complete audio upgrade for the 18,300-seat arena at Omaha’s CHI Health Center. The system’s 88 Leopard loudspeakers are configured in six hangs: four arrays of 16 each at the corners for near and far throw, two of 12 each for the end arrays with a shorter throw. For low end impact, 12 900‑LFC low-frequency control elements are deployed in four cardioid arrays, with two LF arrays of three each flown over the end Leopard arrays and two on the sides between the corner arrays.
Phoenix Suns Arena — formerly America West Arena, US Airways Center, and Talking Stick Resort Arena — has been the home of NBA’s Phoenix Suns since day one. What changed in 2021 is how the venue sounds: a new L-Acoustics Kara II system designed by AV consultants at WJHW and installed by Pro Sound & Video. The system is part of the $230 million Project 201: PHX Reimagined, designed to convert the nearly 30-year-old arena into a state-of-the-art sports/entertainment venue for Phoenix Suns and WNBA Phoenix Mercury fans.
Click here for Tech Focus: Venue Sound, Part 1 — Designs Apply Lessons From Music Tours’ Systems