Volume control at U T: A mammoth 45-foot-wide, 17-foot-tall loudspeakercluster pumps up the volume to compete with vocal Vols fans.
Jul 1, 1997 12:00 PM, Brian Blackmore
When more than 100,000 people congregate in any one place, the sound systemis going to have a tough time competing. When those 100,000 people areorange-clad, football-obsessed enthusiasts of the Volunteers at theUniversity of Tennessee, odds for sound that is loud enough and stillintelligible get even longer. Yet that goal was met in a sound-systemredesign that would make any consultant proud.
UT's Neyland Stadium in Knoxville has undergone 14 expansions since thefield was built in 1921, and this latest expansion is probably the last.Last summer 10,000 seats were added to the newly constructed canopied upperdeck area in the north end zone, bringing the actual seating count to102,544. This addition required the dismantling of the existing end-zoneloudspeaker cluster. The architects for the stadium project, NeylandStadium Designers, located in Knoxville, TN, contacted renowned acousticalconsultants Coffeen, Fricke & Associates in Lenexa, KS, to design a newsound system. Coffeen, Fricke & Associates' latest projects include IkedaAuditorium and Makiguchi Hall, Japan, the Deustche Bundestag in Germany,and Dulles International and Washington National airports in the UnitedStates.
Goals and timetablesThe project team at Coffeen, Fricke & Associates included John Fricke, JohnLedo and Jill Elmers. Their goal was to provide clean, intelligible,high-level sound throughout the stadium for more than 100,000 screaming UTfans.
"Today's audiences expect intelligible sound," said Fricke, president ofCoffeen, Fricke & Associates. "Given the noise level in this stadium,speech intelligibility was our major concern."
As with many stadiums, the architecture limited the possible locations formounting the main loudspeaker cluster. Ledo, the team leader, designed thesound system with the main loudspeaker cluster placed on top of thestadium's huge press box. Having the center loudspeaker cluster positionedat mid-field presented Ledo with some unique challenges as to patterncoverage, low-frequency dispersion, the configuration and angling of thehigh-frequency horns and coverage for the under-balcony areas, canopiedupper-deck seats and the seats directly below the press box.
Ledo's system design was presented and approved. Subsequently, in anattempt to amortize the cost of the system over two years, the officials atUT decided to implement Ledo's design for the new loudspeaker cluster andnorth end-zone loudspeakers in 1996, and complete the loudspeakerinstallation in east, west and south zones the following year. What ensuedwas fairly predictable. UT fans seated in areas covered by the new soundsystem were ecstatic about the intelligibility of the game's announcer andthe power and clarity of the music. On the other hand, the fans located inthe non-renovated sections quickly became disgruntled with the poor soundemanating from the existing loudspeakers. They bombarded the athleticoffice at UT with phone calls, asking when their sections would have bettersound. After the second home game, the officials at UT decided to make allthe fans happy and have the remainder of the loudspeakers installed beforethe third home game on Oct. 26th.
Bigger and betterThe new sound reinforcement system at UT is impressive in both size andcapacity. One of the major concerns was low-frequency directivity withinthe cluster. Ledo evaluated several possible low-frequency cabinets, andafter careful acoustical evaluation, decided to use Altec Lansing'smassive, horn-loaded bass cabinets. Sixteen Altec Lansing 817B cabinetswere customized and outfitted with two 515-G-series woofers, fiber-glasscoated and fitted with weatherproof grilles. Designed to perform in venueswhere directivity control at low frequencies is critical, these horn-loadedsystems provide performance advantages not found in ordinary bass systems.
"We were fortunate to work with a manufacturer like Altec Lansing - acompany that has the freedom and ability to customize their componentseasily and efficiently," noted Fricke.
For high-frequency coverage, 20 Electro-Voice large-format HP horns werestrategically positioned in a three-tiered loudspeaker cluster to cover theplaying field and the stands. Chosen for their constant directivity andsmooth frequency response, HP series loudspeakers control directivity downto 500 Hz.
The main loudspeaker cluster is 45 feet (13.7 m) wide, 17 feet (5 m) talland sits on top of the largest press box in the country. This mammoth pressbox itself is 300 feet (91.5 m) wide, four stories tall and 50 feet (15.2m) deep. It serves not only as a press facility but also as home to anumber of private boxes and suites. The top of the press box, where themain cluster sits, measures the full width of a football field. The clusteris so large that a section of the stadium's lights had to be moved andreset to accommodate loudspeaker placement. With a total of 32 bassloudspeakers and 39 high-frequency drivers, this cluster produces 75% ofthe sound for the entire stadium.
The main cluster is divided into three sections with three tiers ofloudspeakers housed in each section. The center section has fourlow-frequency cabinets across the bottom row, an HP9040 horn, two basscabinets and an HP6040 in the second row, and two HP4020 horns flankingeither side of the two bass cabinets across the top. This center groupingsits perpendicular to the stadium.
The two end groupings of the main loudspeaker cluster are mirror images ofeach other, with the Altec Lansing 817B bass cabinets angled 15% off thecenter line and the HP horns angled to reach the far north and south endzones. Each of these side groupings contain four Altec bass cabinets withan Electro-Voice HP6040 and HP4020 horn positioned on either side on thebottom row; two HP4020s, one HP6040 and two bass cabinets are in the centerrow; and an HP6040 and two HP4020s are on the top row. Nineteen of thehorns are loaded with Electro-Voice DH1A/2MT dual large-format,high-frequency compression drivers; the remaining horn has a single DH1Adriver. In addition to the main cluster, two HP6040s are hung under thelight truss on the right hand side of the main cluster and angled to coverthe outermost seats the main cluster could not reach.
A total of 294 Electro-Voice S-60T loudspeakers are used throughout theunder-balcony areas of the stadium. The S-60Ts are mounted singly or ingroupings of twos and threes, depending on coverage patterns. Two areasrequired additional loudspeaker support: the canopied area in the uppernorth end zone, and the section directly below the press box. FourElectro-Voice PI-100 loudspeakers were used to cover the largest distancebetween the seats and upper north end zone roof deck; a number of singleS-60Ts cover the shorter distances. To reach the fans sitting directlyunder the press box, 55 MG 820 CX coaxial loudspeakers were flush-mountedunderneath.
Getting the job doneSound system contractor for the project is Lowrance Sound Company, locatedin Union City, TN. This is the third project Lowrance Sound has done withCoffeen, Fricke & Associates; the two companies already collaborated on the65,000-seat North Carolina State football stadium and the University ofTennessee's Martin Physical Education Complex. Mark Lowrance, president ofLowrance Sound, spearheaded the installation.
Working closely with John Ledo, Lowrance displayed exceptionalorganizational capabilities. One of the first issues Lowrance dealt withwas how to raise the main loudspeaker cluster to the top of the NeylandStadium press box, more than 300 feet (91.4 m) above the field.
"To set the bass cabinets on top of the press box, they had to be raisednot only over the press box, but over the lighting towers as well," saidLowrance. "Working with Ray Bell Construction, Neyland's generalcontractor, we found the largest crane available in a five-state area. This$1.5 million, 300-ton Krupp crane lifted the steel frame that holds thecluster in place. It was lifted in a day and a half, and the bass cabinetswere lifted in only three hours. Good planning always pays off. We beganthe lift at 1 p.m., and at 4 p.m. I walked into the construction office andtold the site manager we were through with the crane. They couldn't believewe had lifted and anchored all the bass cabinets in three hours."
Although the top of the press box supports the main loudspeaker cluster,the control and rack rooms are located on various floors of the press boxitself. Most of the processing gear and all the amplifiers are housed in 12racks, each 77 inches (2 m) tall, in a newly configured third-floor amproom. System front-end processing includes four White 4702 dual-channelprogrammable equalizers, two Electro-Voice XEQ-2 electronic crossovers, 10Electro-Voice DDL-204 electronic signal delays with optional input andoutput transformers, a Yamaha D1030 crossover-processor and four Symetrix501 compressors.
Powering the system are a total of 54 Electro-Voice AP-series amplifiers.Ten AP2600A/SA and two AP2300SA dual-channel amplifiers drive thehigh-frequency horns. Each of these channels is outfitted with DSTR tweeterprotectors in custom rack mounts designed and constructed by Lowrance Soundto protect the HF drivers from excessive long-term power input. The bassdrivers in the main cluster are powered by 16 Electro-Voice AP3200s. ElevenElectro-Voice AP2600A/SAs, two AP2300SAs, and 13 AP3200s drive the delayedand distributed loudspeaker circuits. Each of these amplifiers has a customoutput panel with either an AT100 or AT300 autoformer matching theamplifier outputs to the actual line loads. Lowrance designed andconstructed custom panels for both input and output devices as well as thetweeter horn protectors.
"In this installation, the rack wiring is a work of art," said Fricke."It's one of the best installations I've seen in years."
The press box control area is located on the fifth floor and divided intothree separate levels: The top level accommodates sound-system operations,the center level is dedicated to the scoreboard, and the game announcer andsupport team occupy the lower level. The sound system operation level isequipped with a Tascam compact disc, cassette deck and a Symetrix 425compressor-limiter. A Mackie 1604VLS mixer controls all inputs. Otherrack-mounted equipment includes a LynTech Crowd-Comp level-compensatingdevice, a White 4702 equalizer for the wireless systems, an Oxmoor bufferamplifier and an audio distribution amplifier. Electro-Voice DO56microphones on specially designed CFA stands are used by the gameannouncers. Electro-Voice RE11s serve as field mics; the game referee usesa Vega U2020 UHF lapel system.
"When we first got this project, we were both happy and somewhatapprehensive. With two other projects that had fall completion dates, wewere short on time and personnel," said Lowrance. "But as it turned out,everything went so well, it was almost scary. The initial installation wasfinished 30 days ahead of schedule and everyone was delighted with ourwork. After the final delay loudspeaker installation in October, fans inthe stadium seating area hear much better than before. Special thanks goesto the folks at Electro-Voice and Altec Lansing, and their reps, Wally andBrent Wilson, from Wilson Audio Sales. Without everyone's cooperation, thisproject could not have finished early or gone so smoothly."