Big Bowl, Big Changes
Apr 1, 2005 12:00 PM, By Kristinha M. Anding
Super Bowl attendees and Jaguars fans experience large-scale renovations at Jacksonville’s Alltel Stadium.
Thousands of fortunate Patriots and Eagles fans packed the Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Feb. 6 to experience the thrills of Super Bowl XXXIX. Although the visitors most likely enjoyed the lush amenities of the facility, it was probably the everyday Jacksonville Jaguars fans frequenting the stadium during their beloved team's regular season who most noticed and appreciated the significant changes that the stadium's interior spaces have undergone during the past few years.
Indeed, according to Bill Prescott, Alltel's senior vice president of stadium operations, the $67 million worth of recent improvements — including the addition of close to 300 plasma displays — were more for the Jaguars' faithful than for the one-time Super Bowl attendees, although the visitors certainly benefited from the advancements. “We wanted all the fans to feel more connected to the stadium,” he said.
A NEW SOUTH END ZONE
Alltel Stadium was completed in 1995 at the site of the former Gator Bowl, on the banks of the St. John's River. From the beginning, the 73,000-seat stadium was conceived to be a state-of-the-art facility. The recent refurbishments to the stadium — completed in two phases, in 2003 and 2004, respectively — contributed to that goal.
In 2003, Alltel finished the construction of a new South End Zone. The structure comprises hundreds of ticketed seats on the outside and multi-level bar and suite accommodations on the inside.
The Bud Zone, a 16,000-square-foot sports bar, is open to all ticket holders on Jaguars game days but functioned as a private club during this year's Super Bowl. With views of the river and of the stadium — and 12 large doors that open up the space to outside breezes when appropriate — the sports bar provides fans with a comfortable area where they can escape the heat during the preseason and early regular season, while still staying connected to the game. It is the only general-admission concession stand and bar area that is not located behind the seating bowl, according to Prescott.
Even though the bar has a view of the field, it would be impossible for all patrons of the deep, 1,100-person-capacity space to see the game from wherever they were standing — without the assistance of approximately 50 37in. Panasonic TH37PWD5UZ plasma monitors, that is. Thanks to the plasma displays, attached to Chief Manufacturing PLP and PCM mounts, visitors have guaranteed visual access to at least one television, and at times — depending where they are situated within the space — are able to see as many as six.
“The AV there was a big piece of allowing the fans to feel the connection with the stadium and, wherever you are standing in the space, to be able to see a TV that has our game on it,” said Prescott, who added that the sheer number of monitors also allows the stadium to broadcast other football games and sports events for avid fans. “It has really become a neat spot with the stadium. Outside of the escalators we put in, for the average fan, [the Bud Zone] has become the most popular spot.”
The widescreen professional plasma displays also function as a major design element, bringing color to what otherwise is a fairly monochromatic space, said Ted Lopez, associate principal of Kansas City, Mo.-based HOK Sport+Venue+Event, which served as the architectural firm for the original stadium buildout and the 2003 and 2004 refurbishments.
“The Bud Zone is concrete, with stained concrete floors and stained concrete countertops,” said Lopez, who served as the project manager for the construction and design of the South End Zone. “It's a monochromatic floor stain and countertop stain. So when you walk into the space, with 50 flatscreen TVs, it adds almost an accent color to the space.”
All that concrete, while perfect for the casual, beer-drinking environment, made for some acoustic challenges. Lopez said that although it was acceptable to have a background noise-like sound quality for the majority of the low-ceilinged bar area, HOK had to make some adjustments for the section of the room that hosts the broadcast of the stadium's coaches' show.
“With all that concrete, we were just getting too much throw back,” Lopez said. “So what we did was we just put an absorbent material up on the ceiling space to absorb some of the sound so there wouldn't be so much kick back bouncing off all the hard surfaces.”
Bob Cole, owner of Jacksonville-based Florida Sound Engineering Company, which acted as the AV contractor during the renovations, said the audio configuration was made up of an assortment of JBL Control 28-Ts; Atlas Sound FA 138T167, SM191-78-8, 164-8A, FA720, and FA97-8 ceiling speakers; and Crown CTS600, 1200, and 2400 power amplifiers, all controlled via a BSS Audio Soundweb 9088iiM and 9010 matrix.
At the upper level of the South End Zone is the Terrace Suite, a high-end 780-seat ticketed section, large verandah, and corresponding climate-controlled dining and bar area. Although the 14,000-square-foot enclosed area of the Terrace Suite is more exclusive than the raucous Bud Zone, the primary challenge was the same: to allow patrons to see the game and feel connected to the stadium no matter where they were positioned. To allow for optimum viewing, the stadium installed 37 more 37in. Panasonic TH37PWD5UZ displays and seven 50in. Panasonic TH50PHD6UY plasmas on Chief PLP, PCM, and PDC mounts throughout the interior area.
“It really adds the dimension of having your own home theater in an environment where you have a live football game, so it's pretty unique,” Lopez said of the plasma televisions in the stylish, glass-enclosed space.
The varying types of ceiling finishes inside the Terrace Suite — including fabric sails, hard ceilings, and laminates — contributed to some audio difficulties during the design and installation.
“We took what was a general speaker layout and started placing them in a way that coordinated with everything else on those ceilings, depending upon the material type,” Lopez explained. “There were areas where we had fabric sails, where we knew we couldn't be above the sails, but we also knew we needed to get the coverage that we needed, so we would adjust the sail layout accordingly for the lights and speakers. … It took awhile to get it right, but once we did, it worked quite well.”
Cole said that Florida Sound used similar audio components as in the Bud Zone and also clustered groups of Atlas SM82TB speakers in the patio area.
Florida Sound chose Matrix 6400 composite video and audio switchers, VSC 500 scan converters, RGB 460xi interfaces, and MDA 3V Video DAs from Extron Electronics for the switching and distribution system used in the South End Zone. For the controls, the contractor selected the NI-3000 and NI-4000 systems from Richardson, Texas-based AMX, which Cole said features easy touchpanel operation via the company's CA-10 color touchpanels.
“Basically [the AMX system] provides the operators in those spaces, who are basically restaurant managers that run their respective areas, with a very operator-oriented system where they can view and choose sources on the screens,” said Cole, who noted that the operators can choose from a number of in-stadium channels, satellite channels, and local computer sources.
“We'll have our 1:00 p.m. game, and as soon as our game is over, we are able to quickly switch the TVs to show the 4:00 p.m. game,” Prescott noted.
In addition, Alltel added the Maestro content management system from Jacksonville-based Information and Display Systems (IDS) in order to control the advertising content of the stadium's internal televisions. The system — using Hewlett-Packard towers, a Windows 2000 server, a Sigma Electronics Matrix router, and CSI Scan Do Pro scan converters — sends out five separate channels of scan-converted digital material from one centralized computer, allowing a single Alltel operator to target specific commercial messages to different areas of the stadium.
“We wanted to be able to control our internal TVs so that when national TV went to break, we could insert our own commercials and have the ability to target where those commercials went throughout the stadium,” Prescott explained. “[We use it to display] commercial advertising, whether that's information about internal events or specials. We use it to advertise tickets for upcoming games, and [we use it for] the coaches' show on Monday nights.”
CLUB AND SUITE REFURBISHMENTS
In 2004, Alltel completed the next phase of improvements, this time renovating the two-story East and West clubs, also known as the Crown Royal Touchdown Clubs, and the stadium's 90 private suites, which hold from 12 to 20 people each.
The primary goal of the club renovation was to keep fans as connected to the game as they would be in the South End Zone, but this time without having a window that allows people to look out onto the field.
“As opposed to the Bud Zone and the Terrace Suite, you are not connected to the field,” Prescott said of the Crown Royal Touchdown Clubs, which each hold approximately 5,600 patrons. “You cannot look out to the field, so we thought it was really important to beef up the AV that we were providing there.”
Alltel kept the original 20in. and 25in. standard Sony KV-20 and KV-25 monitors scattered throughout the two 65,000-square-foot clubs but also added 37in., 42in., and 50in. Panasonic plasma displays (models TH37PWD6UY, TH42PWD6UY, and TH50PHD6UY) on Chief PLP mounts to the bars, dining rooms, main concession areas, and lounges.
Florida Sound integrated the old televisions and the new plasmas into the AMX system and made some minor audio improvements, adding several JBL 2142H speakers in Atlas Q4412 enclosures with 164-12A baffles, as well as Crown CTS8200 power amplifiers.
But the biggest improvement to the clubs came from the addition of four 10.5'×6' screens and two 3.5'×8' ScramScreen video walls from Dunkirk, Md.-based Scram Technologies. The screens use a rear-projection technology that Prescott said provides a crisp, vivid picture even in the high-ambient-light conditions of the clubs.
“We have sunlight coming in from the front of the clubs, and we used to have a front projector that would get washed out with the sunlight,” Prescott said. “So we found this screen that diffuses light. … The picture is as clear as the plasma TVs. So we added three of those [to each of the clubs], which has made a huge difference in the AV experience.”
The stadium's 90 luxury suites, located between the lower and upper seating sections of the bowl, were also upgraded. Alltel replaced the standard monitors in the suites with 42in. high-definition Panasonic TH42PX25U/P plasma screens on Chief PLP mounts. “Putting a flatscreen on the wall really added a new dimension to the spaces,” said Lopez, who was also the project manager for the 2004 renovations.
For the Super Bowl, the stadium offered the suites' elite patrons a high-definition feed courtesy of Comcast. “We really wanted to give them something special,” Prescott said, adding that the Super Bowl attendees found the visuals “fantastic.” The HD feed, he said, will also be available to the Jaguars' suite holders in the upcoming seasons.
In addition to the interior improvements, Alltel replaced the Sony Jumbotrons of the scoreboard with a $3 million Daktronics display, tripling the size of the video boards. “It was a great addition for the fans, and it really looked great during the Super Bowl,” Prescott said.
Although the Super Bowl spectators did get to sample a few of Alltel's newest amenities, the stadium's renovators emphasized that the improvements are ultimately for the Jaguars' loyal fans.
“We really wanted to show them something new and unique,” Lopez said. “A lot changed in those spaces in terms of finishes, design, and the way that [everything is] operated. So it was really about the everyday fan; it wasn't just about the one-time Super Bowl.”
For More Information
Atlas Sound www.atlas-soundolier.com
BSS Audio www.bss.co.uk
Chief Manufacturing www.chiefmfg.com
Communication Specialties, Inc (CSI) www.commspecial.com
Crown International www.crownaudio.com
Extron Electronics www.extron.com
Information and Display Systems (IDS) www.ids-sports.com
JBL Professional www.jblpro.com
Scram Technologies www.scramtech.com
Sigma Electronics www.sigmaelectronics.com
Sony Electronics sony.com/business/
Kristinha M. Anding is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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