Atop the Green Monster
Apr 1, 1998 12:00 PM,
Gregory A. DeTogne
History has shown that if you are a Boston Red Sox fan, you learn to livewith catastrophe. I realize that making a statement like that may seem likeno way to begin this article, especially with the onset of spring. Let mesay for the record that I am not suggesting that the team’s athleticability is in woeful shape. The catastrophes I am referring to are thebiblical kind—you know, fires, floods and plagues of locusts. For yousee, Fenway Park-that grand old dame of ballparks, bastion of red hots andbeer, bulwark of the buy-me-some-peanuts-and-Crackerjacks set-has had itsshare of disasters that were unrelated to activities witnessed on itsnatural grass playing field. To wit: ill omens of calamities to come wereapparent from day one. Having been postponed two days in a row by rainouts,the first official game was finally played at Fenway on April 20, 1912. TheRed Sox struggled valiantly to defeat the New York Highlanders (now theYankees) seven to six in 11 innings before a crowd of 27,000, only to havenews of the winning run driven in by Tris Speaker bumped from the frontpages of every Boston newspaper by the sinking of the Titanic.
Now, the fires. The first occurred on May 8, 1926, when the bleachers alongthe left field foul line burned to the ground. Too bad for fans who likedthose seats, but it was a boon for outfielders who could now snag foulflies behind the grandstands, an area that was previously out of reach.Then, there was the Great Conflagration of January 5, 1934. That is when afour-alarm, four-hour blaze charbroiled the best efforts of a constructionteam hired by owner T.A. Yawkey to renovate the park.
On the audio scale of catastrophic events at Fenway, historical recordsshow that none of the park’s sound systems have ever spontaneouslycombusted or exploded. One did drown, however, and recently at that, in1995.
First installed in 1980, the victim performed faithfully for years, butultimately began to flounder in its old age. Its death knell sounded at theend of the 1995 season despite tireless lifesaving attempts.
“That system’s departure was attributable in no small part to water,” notedZeke Zola, manager of Boston Light & Sound’s audio division. He, along withassociate Mark Rowinski, jointly led the contracting team responsible forresuscitating Fenway’s sodden audio condition a couple of years back. “Thesystem did indeed literally drown. During its last, unreliable days, wewere replacing drivers constantly in the low-frequency section because thecustom cabinets enclosing them had deteriorated to a point where rainwaterwas pouring in with total abandon. Finally, we reached a point where thecomponents had been replaced and submerged again so many times that it wasjust useless.”
Compounding the old system’s performance senility in its soggy dotage wasthe fact that although changes had been made in Fenway’s seating sections,none were made-or were able to be made physically-in the rigid clusterdesign. As a result, the aging mid/high horns situated above the mildewingLF enclosures blared away with impunity right into a block of upscalestadium club seats known as the 600 Club, and those seated below were leftto dwell in an audio shadowland of distant unintelligibility.
In solving Fenway’s audio dilemma, Boston Light & Sound implemented arescuing design penned by Stephen Siegel. Siegel, who was with Boston-basedAcentech at the time, completed a plan with the assistance of Dave Homa,which promised to end the park’s audio troubles once and for all.
As working partnerships go, Boston Light & Sound’s relationship withAcentech was first established when the two firms teamed up in 1990 to bring order to a chaotic wiring scheme in Fenway’s main systems control room. Jointly rising to another Fenway occasion again in 1991, the duo brought adistributed system to the ballpark’s concourse areas using 116 UniversitySound 848AT horns, an Altec Lansing-based delay system to the stadium and anumber of other system upgrades to the control room, including IEDmonitoring.
Well satisfied with the incremental improvements Acentech and Boston Light& Sound had made, Fenway Park management didn’t even question the need forreplacing the waterlogged main cluster in early 1996. In avoiding themistakes of the past, the design called for installing an infalliblyweatherproof single cluster, which would be located in the same spot as itspredecessor-atop Fenway’s left field wall, which is known locally as theGreen Monster.
Following a period of research and component evaluation, both Acentech andBoston Light & Sound concurred that the new audio components scheduled tosit atop the Green Monster in left field would be grouped in a singlecluster consisting of five MH4020C coaxial stadium horns from Electro-Voice.
For the long throws required of the cluster, which ranged up to almost 500feet (152 m) in some places, the MH4020C horn/drivers inherently possessthe necessary power to reach home plate from their distant outfield aerie.Standing 59 inches (1.5 m) high and measuring 39 inches (1 m) across, eachhorn/driver assembly is 73.9 inches (1.9 m) deep.
Because of their large-mouthed capacities, the MH horns differ fromtraditional designs in that they maintain their 40 x 20 pattern controldown to 350 Hz. This performance factor reduces LF spillover and keepsintelligibility high. The presence on each horn/driver system of amanifolded, multidriver high- frequency section (which crosses over at 1.25kHz) is responsible for providing the acoustic output power needed forFenway’s distant areas of coverage.
“The MH Series stadium horns met our coverage requirements, and then some,”Zola recalled. “Plus, their fiberglass design rendered them nearlyimpervious to the elements, which, based upon past experience, was a vitalprecondition.”
Operable from 150 Hz to 20 kHz (-3 dB with 109 dB efficiency), the coaxialMH4020C horn/driver systems comprising the main cluster at Fenway employElectro-Voice’s constant directivity and manifold technology. Suited forreinforcing both music and speech material, the two-way devices are loadedon the low/mid end of the spectrum with four 10 inch (254 mm) Electro-VoiceDL10X-SH drivers. For the coaxially mounted high-frequency sections, a pairof Electro-Voice’s 2 inch (51 mm) N/DYM 1/2MT compression drivers weremounted in a manifolded configuration on each.
Thrown a curve once again by the elements, Boston Light & Sound’s effortsto complete the installation in time for the beginning of the 1996 baseballseason were stymied by the usual driving snowstorms that accompany openingday north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Completing everything they could withinthe heated comfort of their shop, they waited nervously for the weather tobreak.
Finally, they were granted a reprieve, which left them with little morethan a week to get everything in place. Guided by the mindful preparationsof Fenway’s groundskeeper, the crew drove a bucket truck onto the outfieldand hoisted four of the five MH Series Stadium Horns into place atop theGreen Monster. The fifth horn/driver assembly was positioned with a cranefrom outside the stadium.
Powering Electro-Voice’s stadium horn cluster is an assortment of Crestamps, consisting of five model 4801s and three 3301s. With the 4801sproviding the oomph for the low/mid drivers, the 3301s pick up the slackfor the high-frequency sections. Processing is an all-in-one affair, with asingle DP-0204 DACsys II device from TOA Electronics managing EQ, crossoverrates, limiting and a pinch of delay for alignment purposes only.
In the control room behind home plate, a DDA Interface 8 x 4 x 2 consolemixes the signals arriving at the cluster, which arrive from sources including a computer-controlled music system. Bringing the job to completion atright around $100,000, the Boston Light & Sound crew and Acentech tuned thesystem in time for opening day using TEF analysis.
“It sounds good,” Zola reported. “We were able to position the loudspeakerswhere they needed to be this time to obtain the coverage we wanted, so theintelligibility is excellent. Red Sox management is pleased, too, and thesystem works as it should with both voice announcements and music.”