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5-Minute Interview: Kent Meredith

Kent Meredith, general manager of United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, TX, and director at large for arenas at the International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM).

General manager of United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, TX, and director at large for arenas at the International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM).

Pro AV:In arenas and stadiums, who is usually responsible for purchasing and making decisions regarding AV equipment?

Meredith: It's typically the general manager or director. In some cases, arenas and stadiums report to boards, which have the ultimate say in what is purchased. The person they rely on to explain why certain equipment is needed is the technical director.

Pro AV:Is the sports venue market expanding? And has the importance of AV systems increased?

Meredith: There is a steady growth, but nothing like you saw in the mid 1990s. I would venture to guess that half of the NFL and NBA got new stadiums in the last 15 years. Although I think the growth has slowed down a little bit, there's always a need to have the biggest and best arena — even at the college level. In addition, universities that can't build a new arena started building in suites. And of course each one of these suites has to have flat-screen TVs and a sound system — not just the sound system from their announcer but also one that incorporates the ability to pick up the radio station carrying the event and the officials' mics.

Pro AV:What are the most important AV systems sports venues must provide for their fans?

Meredith: They must have video boards. Fans expect to be able to see replays and instant replays. Now they have “Smart Seats,” where patrons can sit in a seat that has video-on-demand. If you don't like the replay they showed on the board, you can select any number of replays yourself. You also have to have a great sound system.

Pro AV:Is there a seasonality to investing in facility upgrades?

Meredith: It depends on the sport's season. When I was at the Alamo Dome with the San Antonio Spurs, we planned most of our equipment changes after the season — in mid-June through October for basketball and hockey. Unless you absolutely have to do it during the season, you're going to wait until after it's over. For a lot of arenas, the busiest time is September. In stadiums, most don't act when football is over but wait until spring.

Pro AV:Does venue management have a preconceived notion of what types of products they want to install, or do they rely on the recommendations of AV consultants and suppliers?

Meredith: It depends on what you're purchasing, and the dollar amount. If you're a municipality or college facility, most of the time you're going to go out for bid or as an RFP. A lot of buildings bring in an expert to perform some analysis of the system, but I see a lot of people who will just rely on their technical director and go with what he or she recommends. We call our peers and ask what kind of systems they use. That's typically more reliable because a salesperson is going to tell you his system is the best. If you spend $500,000 on a system and it doesn't work, you're in the hot seat. So you'd better do your homework. If another university has a system it's raving about, how can you go wrong with that type of system? I would recommend a consultant anytime you're working with a significant amount of money.

Pro AV:What kinds of things are sports venue AV buyers looking for?

Meredith: I think most publicly owned facilities have to look at price first, which is not to say they'll take the lowest bid. But I think money has to be high on the list. I don't think the latest technology is as important because sometimes it's first generation. In that case you want someone else to work out the bugs. Although some professional teams go for that, I'm not sure the latest and greatest is a top priority for publicly owned facilities. I think reliability and people who stand behind their products is much more important.


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