New Stadiums Boast New Tech

CHL’s Thunder trades suburban Wichita for downtown glitz
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WICHITA, KAN.
Despite economic constraints and an ever-intensifying battle for eyeballs, the American heartland continues to unveil new multipurpose entertainment venues. And the Central Hockey League—the NHL’s AA league—aims to cash in on these new arenas to expand its AA fan base.

According to the league’s Director of Operations, Bob Hoffman, almost 2 million people attended CHL’s 16 arenas during the 2008/2009 season. Others watched its Webcast, or followed the games on TV thanks to contracts negotiated by teams.

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The BOK Center in Tulsa Okla. includes a $3.6 million, 50,000-pound scoreboard with 10 LED screens to display high-resolution live video, instant replays, statistics, graphics, animation and ads. Denver-based Altitude Sports and Entertainment aired select Colorado Eagles games and a 30-minute monthly team show. They could be seen by 5.6 million cable and satellite TV subscribers in more than 10 states last season, according to Shelly Harper, senior vice president of programming.

CHL’s 18th season will see new teams, new arenas, a revised playoff format and a revitalized Webcast. The Mavericks of Independence, Mo. and Americans of Allen, Tex. will replace the Oklahoma City Blazers and New Mexico Scorpions. Both of the new teams will open home arenas in early November.

The Allen Event Center will accommodate 8,600 (6,275 fixed seats), according to the venue. At press time, Independence Events Center was planning a Nov. 7 Grand Opening for its $68 million, 5,800 fixed-seat multipurpose venue.

A longstanding competitor, the Wichita Thunder will move to glitzy new digs next year. Its current home, the 32-year old Kansas Coliseum located in the Wichita suburb of Park City, accommodates 9,500, according to the team’s general manager, Joel Lomurno who added that it drew an average 5,457 fans per game last year.

HOME SWEET HOME

Smack in the heart of downtown Wichita, the $185 million Intrust Bank Arena will feature 14,000 seats for Thunder games, according to Lomurno and is expected to open on Jan 23, 2010, in time to host the team’s arch rival, the Tulsa Oilers.

The Oilers moved into the $196 million, state-of-the-art BOK (Bank of Oklahoma) Center in downtown Tulsa last season. Designed by Cesar Pelli, whose landmark creations include Malaysia’s Petronas Twin Towers, the arena accommodates 17,096 fans, according to Steve McCall, the team’s Broadcast/Media Relations Director. He said average attendance increased 29 percent over the previous season’s 4,000 estimate, and noted that 16,986 fans showed up for the opening game.

The BOK Center includes a $3.6 million, 50,000-pound scoreboard designed by the San Francisco-based Forty Forty Agency and manufactured by Daktronics of Brookings, S.D. The 30-foot high by 33 foot wide scoreboard has ten LED screens to display high-resolution live video, instant replays, statistics, graphics, animation and ads. It is suspended by steel cables and two large electronic winches about 25 feet off center ice for hockey games.

The entire facility is HD compatible, according to I.J. Rosenblum, the arena’s senior manager of technology. “We have eight camera locations connected to our control room through fiber optic cable. We use Click Effects FlashBack for video replays and Click Effects CrossFire for pre-recorded videos and commercials.” Click Effects is owned by Nashville-based Sound & Video Creations.

Intrust Bank Arena will feature a large four-sided scoreboard with high resolution and low-resolution video and LED screens centrally-hung to complement the small LED screens circling the entire arena bowl. It also will claim to have the “best acoustics and sound system, thanks to 65-foot ceilings,” (versus the 80- to 90-foot ceilings at other venues) and a roster of stellar equipment.

“They’re looking to use the sound system to keep the crowd pumped up and in the game,” said Gary White, senior associate for Dallas-based design firm Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams, which designed the arena. “We’re giving them a tool that has got full range audio quality—game productions become limited only by the producer of the game.”

SOUNDS GOOD

The biggest challenge, he said, was developing acoustics for the asymmetrically shaped building.

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The Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kan., is scheduled to open in January. “There are different environments depending on where you are in the building—the speaker system had to be tailored to accommodate that,” White said. “After the installation’s completed, we’ll do some fine tuning with the processing and the amplifiers to get the best possible sound coverage.”

A three-dimensional sound reinforcement simulation program enabled the firm to try out electronic files from different speakers to predict coverage and sound quality based on their size, shape, volume and location, plus the direction of the sound they generated. The installer chose equipment from WJH&W’s specifications, and specs were given to the architect for lapidary panels mounted near the roof to further limit reverberation.

To provide the same sound quality to all seats, the sound system uses a four cluster approach from above the center scoreboard, comprised of components from Northridge, Calif.-based JBL, a subsidiary of Harman International Industries. JBL’s PD764 Precision Directivity loudspeakers are used above the scoreboard, complemented by a three-sided ring of PD5212 High Sensitivity Two-Way Full Range speakers covering the upper deck area in a delay capacity, according to White.

Also in the mix are PowerLight3 amplifiers (PL-340s and PL-380s) made by Costa Mesa, Calif.-based QSC Audio Products and a GL4800 (8-bus) multipurpose mixing console from the U.K.’s Allen & Heath. Professional audio signal processing will be provided by Beaverton, Ore.-based Biamp Systems.

“The amplifiers and sound system are connected to a computerized monitoring system that allows the operator in the control room to monitor the status of each individual amplifier,” said White. “Manufacturers are realizing that when people go to sporting events they want to hear the same sound quality that they hear in their living room, movie theaters and car.”

And that sound will uniquely extend everywhere.

“We were asked to provide TV outlets in the restrooms,” White said.