Michigan State University recently set out to upgrade a portion of Spartan Stadium, home of the school's football team, to better serve the fans and university community. Part of the space was torn down to accommodate the construction of a tower to house a new press box, 24 luxury suites, 862 club seats and two floors of university office space.
In addition to the fans receiving better accommodations, there were also plans to make improvements to the media facilities. The renovation included the installation of more than 200 TVs around the stadium as well as a new headend system. As Michigan State's director of sports broadcasting, I was in charge of making selections for all the broadcast technologies purchased, including connectivity equipment.
Transmission is critical
The cable running throughout the stadium ranged in age from a few years to more than 20, and we noticed inconsistent transmission performance from wear and tear. With the Spartans consistently competitive, major local and national networks will broadcast from our facility throughout the season.
A majority of the cables previously run through the stadium were laid years ago by broadcasters who regularly covered games, whereas others were installed more recently by the university. Unfortunately, there was no way to distinguish between them. When broadcasters connected our cables to their equipment, it was uncertain how they would perform.
National networks such as ABC and ESPN will pull up on a given Saturday to cover a game, so we needed to select interconnects that were going to perform as well as the players on the field. Many of the networks covering the games are now transmitting in HD and are looking for HD-compatible connectivity solutions. Because most of our cables were installed many years ago, they were incompatible with the current HD technologies.
The university staff also uses the equipment for video projected on the stadium's big screen and for broadcast via the campus' in-house TV network, so we wanted to ensure that the fans throughout the stadium were also receiving high-quality video and audio. Through input from the regular broadcasters and with my experience working with varying types of cable, we decided to use Gepco to meet the stringent demands for this upgrade.
All of the content collected by both the networks and university staff is broadcast live, so proper transmission is essential. With time being a big factor in a live setup, the ability to connect their equipment while having extreme confidence in its performance allows broadcasters to focus on more pressing elements of the broadcast.
Having used Gepco in the past, I knew the cables would provide consistent delivery without having to constantly monitor its performance. (For the list of what we used, see “Install selection.”) Despite long distance runs, the recently installed cables present superior transmission without signal loss. Now broadcasters are able to connect their equipment to any cable in the building and are guaranteed consistent transmission.
Broadcasters that use the facility have been satisfied with the cables' performance, as has the stadium staff; the cables have performed flawlessly at each and every game. In particular, the HDTV coax cables have been popular, receiving the most positive response from broadcasters because they now have a means to connect their HD cameras, monitors, blimps, and other equipment. Prior to the installation of the HDTV coax cables, broadcasters had to run their own cable, creating additional setup time.
First in HD
With the increasing shift from standard definition to high definition, broadcasters are looking for HD-compatible interconnect solutions, and Michigan State University is one of the first university stadiums in the country to offer HD cabling for broadcast. Having great appreciation for its capabilities, we expect to install additional Gepco HDTV coax in future expansion plans.
Our football team puts its all into every game it plays, and we want to make sure that it is delivered successfully to viewers across the television screen. With the proper cabling solution, we can be sure viewers receive the highest quality transmission possible, so that the images Michigan State fans see at home give them the experience of being with the fans here in the stadium.
Rick Church is director of sports broadcasting for Michigan State University.
ADC audio and video patch panels
G37 DT12 multi-pin connectors
GA61812GFC Gep-Flex 12-pair cable
GSC132 speaker cable
VSD2001TS Plenum RG6
Multi-pair audio cables
Sigle-pair audio cables
VT61811 RG 11 triax
VT61811TK RG11 Plenum triax