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Ballpark Adds Major-League AV

John Q. Hammons, a hotelier from Springfield, MO, funded the $32 million construction of Hammons Field as a gesture to show Minor League Baseball the sincerity of his mission. The 8,056-seat ballpark was completed in April 2004 and served as home to the Southwest Missouri State University (SMS) Bears for a year while the Minor League franchise details were negotiated.

A 20- by 36-foot Barco D-Lite LED scoreboard engages the crowds with replay action and fan promotions.

A 20- by 36-foot Barco D-Lite LED scoreboard engages the crowds with replay action and fan promotions.

CHALLENGE: Leverage the AV system as a marketing tool to build attendance at a newly built Minor League ballpark.

SOLUTION: Feature a roving camera and $1 million LED scoreboard to increase fan excitement and interaction with the players.

Fans of Minor League baseball know that it's all about the game. Unlike their Major League brethren, minor leaguers don't have huge salaries and endorsement deals. What they do have is a love of the game and a passion to play. Like a modern-day Kevin Costner in “Field of Dreams,” John Q. Hammons, a hotelier from Springfield, MO, wanted to bring Minor League baseball back to the town after a 50-year absence. There were only two problems: absence of a stadium and a Minor League franchise in the area.

Undaunted, Hammons funded the $32 million construction of Hammons Field as a gesture to show Minor League Baseball the sincerity of his mission. The 8,056-seat ballpark was completed in April 2004 and served as home to the Southwest Missouri State University (SMS) Bears for a year while the Minor League franchise details were negotiated.

On April 1, 2005, the stadium was re-launched sporting two new stars — the Springfield Cardinals (formerly the El Paso Diablos), the Double-A Texas League affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, as well as a new $1 million Barco D-Lite LED scoreboard. Hammons Industries' in-house architects Jim Thomas and David Horst designed the stadium with 28 luxury suites, indoor batting cages, and separate clubhouses for SMS and the Cardinals.

Several months prior, team owners began assembling the management team, bringing on Matt Gifford as vice president and general manager of the Springfield Cardinals. “We basically put together the franchise in three months — a feat that usually takes 12 to 18 months,” says Gifford, who has been with the St. Louis Cardinals for the past 10 seasons. “In St. Louis, they know how to put on a great show and we wanted to reflect that spirit here as well.”

Best in the league

The AV installation was completed in two stages, with the audio installed in tandem with construction of the stadium. “We were involved early enough in the project that we could incorporate the loudspeaker rigging into the infrastructure and specify conduit for the speaker systems and video systems,” says Tony Bishop, general manager and senior designer at Springfield-based SG Integration, which designed the Hammons Field AV system. “The architects actually asked us what we needed early on; our design was incorporated into the building design.”

The audio install began in the winter of 2003 and was completed with the opening of the stadium in April 2004. The distributed audio system was modeled in EASE, primarily using Electro-Voice (EV) loudspeakers. Sixteen EV FRX+ 940PI horn-loaded loudspeakers serve as the main on-field system under the left and right field berms, powered by five QSC Audio Products PLX 3402 amplifiers.

“I've used the FRX+ in other installations where wideband directivity control is critical,” Bishop says. “This EV box was perfect for Hammons Field as it holds a very tight, defined coverage pattern and is weatherproofed.”

Twelve EV Sx300PI 12-inch, two-way loudspeakers and more than 130 various models of EVID loudspeakers are installed throughout the suites, concourse areas, and party decks — all powered by 12 QSC ISA Series amplifiers. A Yamaha 01V/96 digital mixer was also chosen for its recall features, limiting, and EQ control.

A Click Effects computerized sound effects system provides additional excitement during the games. The SMS Bears' staff has its own Click Effects System on a laptop it brings to Hammons Field for every game, while the Cardinals Click Effects System stays in the control room. Depending on which team is playing, the audio staff has one-button access to presets for both the SMS Bears and the Cardinals. The presets for the “Cardinal Game Configuration” and the “Bears Game Configuration“ are used to create a consistent starting point for each new game in case the mixer settings have been changed in between games. Each preset also includes specific EQ settings for different announcers and Click Effects inputs.

“The owners of Hammons Field and the Cardinals are all very happy with the results,” Bishop says. “You can hear the audio everywhere in the park — even in the restrooms.”

Crowd-pleasing video

The second stage of the AV install at Hammons Field was completed during its first year in operation. “Since this install was a two-year evolution, the first design didn't include much digital equipment,” Bishop says. “At the time, certain equipment just didn't fit the budget. But time was on our side. One year later, the prices came down enough that we could incorporate great technology at a better price.”

The infrastructure for the 20- by 36-foot Barco scoreboard was put into place during the first season, leaving a hole in the stadium where the scoreboard would eventually go. Hammons later purchased the Barco D-Lite LED video scoreboard, which the manufacturer installed. The $1 million board, which is a rarity in Minor League ballparks, features 108 tiles and is currently billed as the biggest in the league. Bishop says the Barco display was selected because of its advanced signal-processing technology, which offers viewers a better resolution than other options.

SG Integration installed the front-end video system, which is owned by the Cardinals ownership group. Two static camera positions at high home and center field include two Sony DSR-390 cameras mounted on Libec tripods. The center field camera is outfitted with a Camplex CP-601 series multiplexing system, which can send component video signals from the camera to the control point. “Unlike other systems with just a composite video feed, this system has a fully digital feed,” Bishop says. “Using a Camplex SDI-65 serial digital output converter, the cameras send high-quality SDI digital video to the Barco display with no degradation to the screen.”

The third camera position is a roving camera used for crowd interaction (see sidebar at left). The Sony DSR-390 is outfitted with an RF Central digital wireless camera system and a TV One DV-1394Pro-SDI composite-to-SDI converter. “With the roving camera, we can use the Barco display as a marketing tool,” Gifford says. “It's easier to recoup the cost when you concentrate on how the fans will appreciate the AV system.”

The video is switched through a Broadcast Pix Studio2000 digital production system. In addition to the switching capability, this system features a character generator, digital clip store, still stores, logo generator, and digital video effects. “During games, we like using fan-oriented edits,” Gifford says. “The roving camera ties the fans to the game by seeing themselves on the screen. Without the roving camera and the graphics capabilities, we wouldn't be able to do many of our promotions.”

One such promo, called “Take it to the Bank,” features an animated graphic of a teller and vault on screen. An on-field emcee uses a Shure ULXP24/Beta 58 wireless microphone to pick a contestant out of the crowd. The roving camera picks up live shots on the board along with a split-screen of the teller graphic. “You can have more fun in the Minor Leagues,” Bishop says. “There are much more activities and promotion-oriented events. It really draws people into the experience to see themselves onscreen or to follow along with a promotion. We also use the Barco for instant re-plays and advertisements with a sponsored player profile.”

Operations room

The centerpiece of the AV system is located in the operations room on the third floor behind home plate. It includes TV broadcast production, the audio mixer, game announcer, and board control operator. As with many stadiums, free space is always at a premium, so the operations room was designed with space-savings in mind. “The design had to be as compact as possible, so we used LCD panels to save space,” Bishop says.

Eight NEC LCD1760V MultiSync 17-inch LCD monitors allow the production crew to simultaneously view available replays, feeds from each camera position and the actual output on the Barco screen. The stadium's slow motion playback system — another rarity in the Minor Leagues — is also housed in the operations room. The system includes two Doremi V1-MP2-420 video disc recorders, two Doremi DATA-EXP-WC-LP drive frames, four Seagate Cheetah 73 Gig SCSI drives, and two Doremi SDI-100-V in/out SDI video disc recorder interface cards. The system also includes a DNF Controls DMAT sports controller, which provides slow-motion instant replay and highlight cues.

The Springfield Cardinals currently employ 17 full-time staff members. During game time, that number swells to 200-plus per game. “This entire project has been a win-win for everyone,” Gifford says. “SG Integration gave us a package that could really make the Barco display sing. Now our AV potential is unlimited.”

Linda Seid Frembes is a freelance writer and PR specialist for the professional AV industry. She can be reached atlinda@frembes.com.

 


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