Redefined By Design
Built over an old ocean pier, the new Pier at Caesars in Atlantic City is home to Game-On, the ultimate sports bar for any sports fan.
CHALLENGE: Create an immersive sports bar experience in a new retail development in Atlantic City, N.J., that can receive and show any sporting event in the world at any time.
SOLUTION: Borrow pro audio and AV design concepts from dance club installations, with a robust video matrix and almost 100 HD displays installed throughout the venue.
BUILT OVER the renovated structure of an old working pier in Atlantic City, N.J., the new Pier at Caesars extends 1,500 feet into the Atlantic Ocean. A bridge over the city's famed boardwalk connects the $175-million entertainment complex to Caesars Casino. The Pier's four floors read like a who's who of retailing and restaurant giants with 66 shops and seven award-winning restaurants, including an outpost of the popular Game-On sports bar in Boston, located right outside Fenway Park.
Like its sister location, Game-On Atlantic City bills itself as “The Official Bar of Any Game That's On” and offers an unparalleled immersive experience for fans of any and all sports. “We've taken the experience of watching a sporting event to the next level,” says John Lyons, president and founder of Los Angeles design/build firm John Lyons Systems, who recently outfitted the space with AV systems. “Game-On is a place where you can watch sporting events in a party atmosphere enveloped by high-definition video and a professional-quality audio system.”
Game-On is not just a sports bar; the client, Boston-based Lyons Group Management, set out to create a sports mecca where fans can come and enjoy sporting events from around the world. “We took the design influences from nightclubs, lounges, and bars. Our original concept was to create a stadium environment. But through the design process, it became apparent that we did not want to be seen as a regular sports bar but rather as a modern sports lounge,” says John Bell, senior designer for JGA Architectural Design in Pawtucket, R.I., who worked with the client on materials, finishes, and traffic flow.
The major challenge from an architectural standpoint was creating an exciting space from an otherwise open exterior to the Pier's concourse. The original design called for a sedate exterior with a discreet vomitory entrance leading into the sports bar area. (Vomitories are tunnel-like passages in amphitheaters and stadiums found between the seats and the buildings' exteriors.) However, without some preview of the excitement inside, the owners were concerned that passersby would skip the Game-On experience thinking it was just an ordinary sports bar with a few CRT TVs and some old-timers on bar stools.
JGA worked with Patrick Lyons, president of Lyons Group Management, on the concept of adding a tequila bar and a small dining area off the main concourse. This area's high-backed booths offer more privacy and less emphasis on watching TV. “We wanted to extend the boardwalk into our space to create an environment that celebrates the beautiful views of the shoreline. Visitors who want the full experience can walk down the ramp at the vomitory entrance into the Game-On portion downstairs,” Bell adds.
The interior's focal point is the 50-foot-long central bar that has 44 HDTV displays hanging above it. “The space lends itself to the mega displays because there are two structural columns at each end of the bar to support the superstructure over it,” says Mark Palazio, senior project manager for JGA Architectural Design. “However, the weight of the displays still required extra support steel.”
Due to the fast-changing nature of video technology, the project posed another challenge to the design team. “The client wanted a certain number of screens. We knew the approximate sizes but not the actual manufacturers' sizes, model numbers, and specifications. Video technology moves so fast that the displays were specified at the last possible minute,” explains Palazio. “However, the audio components didn't really affect the project since we received the audio components early enough. We had plenty of time to add space for the audio components in the ceiling.”
Game-On Atlantic City boasts a total of 96 HDTV displays running on a 16 x 64 Knox video matrix. Inputs include 13 cable and satellite receivers so sports fans can literally catch any type of sporting event at any time around the world. The large collection of HD video displays include three Panasonic 50-inch plasmas, 19 Philips 42-inch LCDs, 40 Philips 32-inch LCDs, seven Philips 26-inch LCDs, and six Philips 20-inch LCDs. “The ‘wow' factor is the multiple feeds routed to so many different outputs; it is above and beyond a basic sports bar system,” Lyons notes.
The HD displays are either installed as stand-alones or in groups with the goal to give each fan the best sightlines no matter where he stands or sits in the room. This feat was achieved by angling every seating area to face the central bank of screens. “The bar is shaped like a football so the seating areas angle towards the bar. Even the skybox lounges upstairs are angled to achieve the best line of site to the video displays,” Bell explains.
In addition, six Casio XJ360 2200 lumens projectors and one ASK Proxima C450 4000 lumens projector were installed around the bar area with each Da-Lite projection surface measuring 12 feet by 8 feet. “The projectors are used like large TVs. Every projector can show a different sporting event as well,” says Richard Worboys, vice president at John Lyons Systems. “Watching sports in hi-def is a whole new experience due to the clarity, which is important for sports like hockey, for example. You can see the puck now even on the smaller 7-inch displays installed in the restrooms.”
Infrastructure for the install is Cat5 cable with Intelix video baluns at each end to transmit from standard twisted pair to component video. Cable and satellite programming is controlled by a media PC running Knox Video software so Game-On staff can automatically program which sporting events will appear on which display throughout the day. The video package works in conjunction with Game-On's professional-quality audio system also designed and installed by John Lyons Systems. The system offers playback audio of a sporting event with a dance atmosphere. “We installed a system with dance club capability, except that all loudspeakers are hidden in the ceiling,” says Lyons.
The use of ceiling speakers helps maintain unobstructed sightlines by eliminating the need to install the video displays around large loudspeakers. Instead, Lyons' audio design called for almost 100 ceiling speakers to blanket the entire space with sound. Forty-six EAW Commercial CIS400 ceiling speakers, 16 EAW JL12 custom 12-inch coaxial ceiling speakers co-developed by Lyons and EAW, and 24 JBL 328c 8-inch coaxial ceiling speaker were used throughout the space. Low frequency coverage is provided by four JBL 312CS 12-inch high-output ceiling subwoofers and an EAW SB250 subwoofer.
Audio signal processing for the system is handled by BSS Audio Soundweb London, with one each of the BSS Audio BLU-80 and BLU-32 installed in the equipment rack. Zone control is provided by one BSS Audio BLU-10 programmable controller and 12 BSS Audio BLU-3 wall-mount controllers for source selection and volume control in different areas. Six VIP skybox lounge suites at Game-On use the BLU-3s, giving patrons the control to select and change their own AV source.
Game-On's DJ booth built on a raised platform at the end of the space does double-duty as a control and command center where all AV ties back to a central place. The booth has complete control over AV signals, including routing that displays show sports or other programming. It also includes two Pioneer DVJ-X1 DVD turntables, two Technics SL-1200 MK5 DJ turntables, one Pioneer DJM 800 mixer, and one Edirol V4 video mixer for nights when Game-On wants to create a “club” atmosphere. Both the Pioneer DVJ-X1 and the media PC can also feed music videos to all displays, as an addition to the sports content. “If there is no sporting event, then they can put on multimedia music events. The only element in the space that converts are the drop screens made of black fabric off the back end to cover the lounges so the space looks smaller,” says Bell.
In addition to the audio and video, Game-On Atlantic City sports a small lighting rig consisting of several Robe fixtures on a separate controller. The lighting elements are used to emphasize when a team scores during a game or create excitement and call attention to what's on-screen. “Lighting will continue to play a larger role as entertainment destinations like sports bars try to offer a larger-than-home experience. Even now and in the future, there won't be a sports bar without lots of hi-def displays,” Worboys says.
Linda Seid Frembes is a magazine journalist and public relations consultant for the professional AV industry. Visit her at www.frembes.com.