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The AV/IT Blitz

Mar 28, 2011 5:04 PM, by Dan Daley

The St. Louis Rams’ new practice facility and office complex takes fantasy football into the IT realm.


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The  St. Louis Rams’ new  training facility recently underwent a huge upgrade, including an HD IPTV system and a digital signage network featuring X20’s Xpresenter technology.

The St. Louis Rams’ new training facility recently underwent a huge upgrade, including an HD IPTV system and a digital signage network featuring X20’s Xpresenter technology.

According to SportsHistory.com, Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000 became known as the “Dot-com Super Bowl” because of the numerous commercials for Internet companies that would find themselves out of business a year later. That was the last year the St. Louis Rams were in the Greatest Show On Turf, and they won it, beating the Tennessee Titans 23 to 16. It was one of the brighter moments in a year that saw the tech bubble disastrously implode. But a decade later those same St. Louis Rams are at the leading edge of IT technology in a much more secure manner, with a new training facility and office complex that’s taking the ongoing convergence of IT and AV even further.

The Rams organization’s practice facility was at the end of a life cycle with its existing technology. Locally based integrator TSI Global was awarded the project for the design and implementation for new systems including an HD IPTV system to replace the standard-def analog SMATV in the facility; a new digital signage system using X2O’s flagship platform Xpresenter technology and software and graphics hardware; and a completely new ShoreTel VOIP phone system to replace the old analog system. All told, the new 10Gb network would comprise 300 data/vox connectivity locations in the 9,000-square-foot campus and in three separate tech closets, including 110 ShoreTel VOIP points, 20 CCTV locations, 20 digital signage points, and 109 HD IPTV nodes.

TSI had done several partial network projects before, integrating AV and telephony or telephony and digital signage. The Rams’ new training facility offered an opportunity to put all of that onto a single high-speed network that would produce a range of synergies, from linking the corporate offices at the training facility to the ticketing operation at the team’s playing field at Edward Jones Dome several miles away (ticketing managers can watch incoming caller ID to spot favored customers to move to the head of the queues well as instantly update the Rams’ radio replay for audio on hold), to letting coaches pick video clips over the facility’s newly installed HP ProCurve 2900-series edge switches to assemble a training session that could be ported over the facility’s auditorium via IP, without ever leaving their desks.

The Ram’s new facility also features a 125-set press auditorium with a Sony VPL FW41/US projector and a 78”x139” motorized screen. All TVs throughout the facility are Sony KDL42V4100 42in. and KDL52S4100 52in. LCD screens.

The Ram’s new facility also features a 125-set press auditorium with a Sony VPL FW41/US projector and a 78”x139” motorized screen. All TVs throughout the facility are Sony KDL42V4100 42in. and KDL52S4100 52in. LCD screens.

“We could see this kind of design had enormous potential,” says Paul Murdick, vice president of AV for TSI Global. “The idea of having everything running over the same GigaBit network offered so many possibilities, operationally and economically.”

The Rams were game, so to speak, but wanted a cost analysis before green-lighting the project, and a comparison of the cost for implementing a new digital network versus a conventional copper-backboned one proved to remarkably similar with the exception of cabling. TSI considered using an existing data network infrastructure at the facility operated by the NFL but that would run athwart of the NFL’s own strict data security regulations. That and the fact that the existing network’s older switches could not provide the bandwidth necessary to carry IP phone, HD video, digital signage, and future security meant that a new and discrete backbone had to be included in the budget. But the efficiencies that a new, more robust network could offer the Rams were clear. The project was given the go-ahead.

Pressure Plays

The new network runs on Berk-Tek Cat-6a cabling, connecting offices, training rooms, the auditorium, and other spaces in the building. A wireless LAN extends the network to the playing field. A traveling phone kit, using a gateway and several VOIP phones, extends it even further, allowing the team to maintain full voice and data communications when training is moved to off-campus sites, or when events like the annual draft day or press conferences require a lot of phones to be set up in one place in a hurry. The ability to manage their phone systems themselves was one of many economic dividends the new network began paying immediately, says Murdick. The system also offers the flexibility to insert a live camera as a source on any TV in the system.

Running the cable in an existing office plant had the usual challenges, including the need to not be disruptive of day-to-day operations, an especially trying test when the work had to take place in the hectic pre-season period last summer. “This is an intensely focused time for the players, coaches, and everyone else with the team, so we had to make sure we weren’t intrusive,” Murdick says. TSI had to use second shifts regularly, sending wiring teams in early and late, trying to leave the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. slot, the day’s most intense period, open. That required a lot of coordination between team leaders via testing and emails, regular and frequent meetings between Murdick, TSI PM Eric Cassinger, and Larry Clerico, the Rams’ video director, and tactics like pre-positioning materials throughout the facility.



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