Gamer's Delight

It's considered ESPN's top sports bar on the east coast. And no wonder. The latest Chickie's & Pete's at Parx Casino offers the total experience, plus a unique video gaming environment. 2/01/2011 4:14 AM Eastern

Gamer's Delight

It's considered ESPN's top sports bar on the east coast. And no wonder. The latest Chickie's & Pete's at Parx Casino offers the total experience, plus a unique video gaming environment.

CHALLENGE: Take the sports bar experience to another level with custom-controlled events, nightclub effects, and private gaming centers.

SOLUTION: Install the large-screen TVs and audio systems that patrons would expect in a sports bar, but also integrate individual gaming "pods" with directional sound, acoustical treatment, and networked entertainment.

At the new Chickie's & Pete's sports bar inside of Parx Casino near Philadelphia, integrators and designers created one big AV installation that effectively surrounds 18 private pods where fans can play video games and hang out.

Visit a major sports town such as boston, New York, or Indianapolis and you'll find any number of bars and restaurants that cater to local fans. Their AV offerings range from a simple bank of flat-panel TVs to full-scale video production technologies such as the systems installed at the new Chickie's & Pete's Crab House and Sports Bar in Bensalem, Pa., near Philadelphia.

Chickie's & Pete's is unlike most other sports bars. Located in the Parx Casino (the 2010 Pro AV Spotlight Award winner for Best Restaurant/Casino), the 13,000-square-foot Chickie's & Pete's includes AV systems that deliver group fan experiences as well as more private viewing and gaming affairs through the integration of 18 amusement pod entertainment centers (APECs). Each APEC includes special space-saving racks from Middle Atlantic Products that hold a variety of gaming systems and accessories to create a feeling of enjoying sports and video games from the comfort of home while surrounded by like-minded fans. The combination of technology and venue design has earned Chickie's & Pete's the distinction of being named No. 1 Sports Bar on the East Coast by ESPN.

Though Chickie's & Pete's has six other restaurants in the United States, the newest locale in Parx Casino is the first to fully realize owner Pete Ciarrocchi's vision of an integrated gaming and sporting event experience built from the ground up.

"We had been working on the AV design and construction for Parx Casino for about three years," explains Nathan Powell, president of Production Technology Consultants Group (PTC Group), which provided AV consulting and construction management on the install. "The building owners were looking for continuity in AV design across the casino and restaurant, which is how we got involved in this project. Pete was the visionary. We helped him refine his ideas at another location but were able to integrate all the pieces of his vision at the Parx Casino location."

PTC Group worked closely with Ciarrocchi and DAS Architects of Philadelphia to ensure that the space "looked and sounded right the first time," Powell says. "Pete wanted the energy of a nightclub in a restaurant environment. Our biggest audio challenge was intelligibility."

Because of PTC Group's close working relationship with the architect, Powell was able to design multiple custom, curved trusses from Milos Structural Systems to be installed throughout the venue. The special trusses made it so that the AV design team could place loudspeakers and lighting elements wherever they needed them, without having to work around any building and architectural limitations. In other words, by working closely with the architect, PTC Group could bring its own architectural elements to the venue.

With the right skeleton in place, PTC Group turned to AV dealer Starlite Productions of Moorestown, N.J., for all the necessary gear. On PTC Group's shopping list was a host of Harman-brand components, including AKG microphones, BSS Audio signal processing, Crown Audio amplifiers, JBL speakers, and a Soundcraft mixer. "I appreciate the one-stop engineering," Powell says. "Harman was already installed within the casino, so management can now monitor and control both systems easily."

Throughout the sports bar, the design team was able to ensure that every single seat had an un­obstructed view of at least two flat-screen displays, although most seats can see many more, according to Powell. The large, open floor plan means patrons can cast their eyes toward one of four 110-inch displays to the left and right of the seating area, any of seven screens mounted throughout the main dining room, or one of the bank of 17 screens behind the bar. (At press time, Chickie's & Pete's was in negotiations to replace all the screens at the Parx Casino location with new models from Samsung and Sharp, though exact models had not yet been determined.)

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Gamer's Delight

It's considered ESPN's top sports bar on the east coast. And no wonder. The latest Chickie's & Pete's at Parx Casino offers the total experience, plus a unique video gaming environment.

The Gamer's Private Pod

But anyone can install new audio systems and a slew of flat-screen TVs. What sets Chickie's and Pete's apart is the venue's patent-pending Play2 interactive experience. Instead of just watching sports, patrons can play any number of Sony PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii, or Microsoft Xbox 360 games in one of the 18 custom-integrated APECs. These private suites are rented for gameday events or by the hour and each features a 65-inch screen mounted over a gaming cabinet. Each cabinet includes a Middle Atlantic SRSR12 pullout rack for organizing the game consoles. The SRSR Series racks have rails that slide and rotate 90 degrees, which saves precious space in each gaming cell and makes it easy to access and service the consoles as necessary, because when it comes to the popular APECs, time is money and any system glitches must be dealt with ASAP.

In each APEC, a wall-mounted Crestron TPMC-4SM 4.3-inch wide-screen touch panel serves a variety of functions, including volume control and source-switching between game consoles and television feeds. Each touch panel was also programmed by ICD Systems of Exton, Pa., to allow users to order food and drinks and to count down the time left on their APEC rental. Among the other custom touches is an interface that blinks to indicate that there are five minutes left in a group's APEC rental, and provides the ability to add more time to a rental directly from the touch panel.

The Crestron system was also programmed and integrated to act as a master APEC monitoring system, which connects back to the gaming hostess' booth to help ensure that no one damages or abuses the AV systems in each pod.

All the gaming pods also include Panasonic video cameras mounted above their screens. This allows patrons in the main seating area to see how the gameplay is going. All the consoles are also networked so that when the feature is activated, patrons can play against gamers outside their pod or even outside the sports bar.

The biggest challenge in designing the APECs was sound. With 18 pods, each in need of its own private sound experience while being surrounded by the sports bar's audio at large, PTC Group needed tightly focused speakers that didn't sacrifice quality.

"Pete's mandate was that the APECs must sound great," Powell says. After considering the options, PTC Group specified a pair of portable JBL EON 515 self-powered speakers for each APEC.

"The stereo EON 515s are installed in the cabinet below the gamer, but pointed up like a stage monitor," Powell says. "It's not too loud unless you're sitting in front of the screen, in which case it blows you away. We wanted very directed sound that's close to the gamer but doesn't bleed into the next cell."

Even so, designers gave extra acoustical consideration to the construction of the pods to further enhance the private entertainment experience. After all, some of the APECs include digital instruments so patrons can play games such as Rock Band and Guitar Hero. To ensure people can rock out and not disturb other APECs, the walls are acoustically isolated with thermal padding and the carpets were double-padded, Powell says.

Gamer's Delight

It's considered ESPN's top sports bar on the east coast. And no wonder. The latest Chickie's & Pete's at Parx Casino offers the total experience, plus a unique video gaming environment.

Customized for the Home Team

In each entertainment pod, video game consoles and other gear sit in custom Middle Atlantic racks that are easy to service.

In each entertainment pod, video game consoles and other gear sit in custom Middle Atlantic racks that are easy to service.

Outside the APECs, in the main seating area, Crestron systems also handle the paging, lighting, and gameday effects. Management uses a 16GB Apple iPad loaded with the Crestron Mobile Pro G control app. With additional pro­gramming from ICD and creative input from PTC Group, the interface is simple to use, Powell says. Staff members can call up the app and touch the logo for whichever Philadelphia team is playing that day, whether it's the Phillies, 76ers, Eagles, or Flyers. During the game, theatrical lighting employs the chosen team's colors and logo to set the mood for fans.

"Management likes using the iPad to control each individual screen and zoned audio volume throughout the venue," Powell says. "ICD's Mark Kuhlman programmed the Crestron system so that Pete or any one of the managers can walk around the complex with the iPad and change the input to a particular screen while they're talking to a customer at their table. It makes for happy customers to watch a particular sport."

Intelligent lighting and AV events also kick in every time the home team scores. Management just hits the "score" button on the iPad to trigger special lighting and sound effects. "The restaurant explodes with sound, team colors, and strobes," Powell says.

To accommodate the plethora of back-end components needed to run the main room's sound, lighting, and video, PTC Group selected four Middle Atlantic MRK-4436 equipment racks–but with a special request. The standard racks feature a 36-inch depth to accommodate system distribution and control equipment, while also saving some premium space in the equipment room thanks to their 22-inch width.

But PTC Group also requested custom 30-amp plugs for the MRK-4436 power strips in order to accommodate the power consumption needs of Crown MA-5000i and MA-9000i amplifiers. Middle Atlantic was happy to oblige the custom request and has since offered 30-amp plugs as part of its regular product options.

With all the systems in place, the hometown effect is so great that the owners knew they'd want to accommodate the hometown sports media, too. Therefore Chickie's & Pete's also has its own broadcast booth for hosting local radio shows and network TV broadcasts. The booth and several locations throughout the complex are pre-wired to accommodate visiting production teams. That way no additional wires need to be run inside the venue that might potentially disrupt or interfere with patrons' enjoyment. The cables run back to an external truck dock where broadcasters can simply drive up, connect to an external panel, then unload their cameras and begin production.

At the end of the night, management powers down all the AV and lighting with one button on a master Crestron control panel. The systems automatically powers down in sequence. But they don't get much rest. Chickie's & Pete's is open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The original Play2 system was installed at a previously opened Chickie's & Pete's in South Philadelphia. The Parx Casino location enjoyed the advantage of integrating its APECs during the venue's construction. Powell says the Parx Casino Chickie's & Pete's has been so successful that the company now intends to use it as a template for future locations that feature the Play2 experience. Several locations are in development.

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