The 'Magic' of IT in Orlando

Amway Center, the new home of the Orlando Magic
Amway Center, the new home of the NBA's Orlando Magic will be a "game changer for the industry," according to Charles Freeman, the team's senior vice president for business development.

The Magic opened the doors to the new $480 million venue on Oct. 1 to an estimated 45,000 fans. Freeman, who oversaw the $380 million designated for the arena itself ($100 million went to land, infrastructure and the parking garage), said the arena is "building dominance" for its sponsors by giving them the "moment of exclusivity."

"Now all of the [1,100-plus] interior and exterior monitors can display the same message at the same time," he said. This will happen not only inside the arena but outside.

Daktronics provided the multimillion dollar integrated scoring, video and advertising display system. Its ProPixel LED technology on the exterior of the building measures about 46 feet high by 54 feet wide, large enough to be seen by motorists on Interstate 4. There is also a curved 8-foot high by 80-foot wide LED display on the building's corner tower, near the entrance to the Magic retail store. Full-color Daktronics HD-12 exterior displays are featured in the parking garage and above the box .office, and 14 smaller flat panel displays are mounted near ticket windows that face onto the street.

Inside the arena, Daktronics provided two LED ribbon boards mounted on the interior fascia of the seating decks, 27 smaller full-color digital displays at various entrances and gathering areas, and a 42-foot by 41-foot, center-hung scoreboard (the largest in the NBA).

Harris Corp., a newcomer to the role of venue principal, provided the bulk of the broadcast and IPTV technology. The team was convinced Harris would provide better accountability and efficiencies of scale.

The 42-foot by 41-foot, center-hung scoreboard in the new Amway Center is the largest in the NBA. "We wanted to go with one solution—Harris provided it," said Freeman, noting the company's expertise in broadcast communications, IT, integration and services to monitor and maintain equipment. "We have them actually managing the network. They have the ability to do so both off-site (Network Operations Center in Melbourne, Fla.) and on-site (a Harris representative at the arena).

The Amway Center's plans for revenue enhancement go beyond special branding opportunities for its founding partners. Video displays entice customers for all advertisers, thanks to Harris' InfoCaster Digital Signage Solution.

"The days of the [static] backlit sign are over," said Freeman. "Motion attracts you—you're more interested in what's going on."

Interactivity, too, plays a role in boosting revenue. In the 68 loge boxes, 12.1-inch AccuView touch screens (720p) powered by Enseo set top boxes enable fans to order food as well as select TV programming, stats and map directories.


Harris, a Cisco Gold Certified Partner, provided switching gear, wireless access points and security measures developed by Cisco Systems. Harris' InfoCaster is equipped with its own Punctuate software solution, which manages the scheduling and placement of promotional content on the network.

"The software turned our sales team loose on how to best monetize the system," said Jason Coleman, vice president of information technology for the Magic.

According to Coleman, Punctuate automatically distributes any custom mix of ads to an individual monitor or group of monitors. For example, displays near beer concessions will have a higher percentage of Budweiser ads in regard to the duration/frequency of video loops or on-screen presence (size and location) and can be easily adjusted for other variables (such as pricing).

Harris' Inscriber G7 graphics system and NetVX encoders optimize the look and timing.

"The high definition quality of the graphics and integration with Daktronics—that's all automated, and gorgeous," said Coleman. Meanwhile, the NetVX met the Magic's "half second or less" latency bar between floor and broadcast play. "We ended up at point-three seconds."

And Daktronics' LED display with 6 mm surface mount LED pixel technology on the center scoreboard narrows the distance between the illumination fixtures enough to offer all fans an HD experience (not just ones far enough away), he said.

"You could look up right under the scoreboard and see high definition video," said Coleman.

Another key third party provider was Columbia, Md.-based MICROS Systems. The big selling point of its 9700 HMS point-of-sale solution was its ability to read "loaded tickets"—sales that package entrance fees with extras like food coupons, a boon for group sales. Coleman's team will next meld the POS software with the team's Microsoft Dynamics-based customer relations management package (plus data from Ticketmaster) to target market select seats, after pinpointing the likelihood of a season ticketholder to, for example, buy a Dwight Howard jersey.

Amway Center's video control roomBROADCAST

Wrightson, Johnson, Haddon & Williams (a consultant to the building's architect, Populous) designed the broadcast system, according to Rick Price, assistant director of broadcast & technology services for the Orlando Magic and Amway Center.

"They worked with us for close to two years [on] the details of everything the system could do," he said. "They handled everything from the control room, replay scenario, sound systems, broadcast cabling infrastructure."

Harris provided most of the technology.

"The entire infrastructure of the control room is based on Harris' Platinum router and Nexio servers," said Price.

He noted the efforts Harris took to integrate with third parties, as did Dave Orr, project manager for Diversified Systems, which was subcontracted by Harris to outfit the replay room, and Rick Dyer, spokesman for Ross Video, which provided its Vision 4 switcher.

"The tight integration with Daktronics and Harris is what makes it possible," said Dyer.

Price also praised the arena's Meyer Sound system, which includes four Galileo processors, 66 MILO loudspeakers and 24 M3D directional subwoofers. The system is complemented by a Yamaha M7CL mixer. Installation was provided by Pro Sound & Video.

"It's loud and incredibly intelligible—a sound system that you feel as well as hear," said Price. "All of this technology is amazing, but it is only as amazing as the people running it. We have what I think is the best creative talent and engineering staff in a professional sports venue."