When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II formally opened Stadium MK last year, it represented the culmination of six years’ hard work on the part of Pete Winkelman – the man whose football (soccer) team, MK Dons F.C., calls the stadium home.
It was in 2002 that Winkelman controversially moved Wimbledon Football Club 60 miles north from the London suburbs to Milton Keynes, a ‘new city’ founded in the late 1960s as a partial solution to southeast England’s population boom. Wimbledon fans refused to support the team in their controversial new location, so Winkelman effectively gave it a fresh start: new team; new city; new fans; new stadium.
Stadium MK reflects Winkelman’s unparalleled demand for quality in developing this multiuse venue for the Denbigh North district of Milton Keynes. Designed by leading sports architecture firm HOK Sport, Stadium MK features a unique two-tier seating layout separated by a 360-degree open concourse; it also boasts UK’s first Meyer Sound self-powered system installed in a stadium.
When looking for audio equipment for the venue, Winkelman – a former record-company executive who owns the nearby Great Linford Manor Studios – sought advice from two old friends in the music industry, audio consultant Gary Garner and Metallica sound engineer “Big Mick”? Hughes. Hughes admits to “not having the slightest interest”? in football, but stresses that “just because you’re in another world, doesn’t mean you should walk away from good sound.”?
Through the auspices of Hughes and Garner, as well as Taylor, Mich.-based rental company and long-time Meyer Sound user Thunder Audio, a weather-protected Meyer Sound system was chosen. The distributed system includes 38 UPA-1P loudspeakers and 38 of the narrow coverage equivalent UPA-2P loudspeakers, augmented by 16 600-HP subwoofers. The loudspeakers are flown from the stadium’s steel infrastructure using custom brackets specially made for the project by the installer, Nottinghamshire–based VCP Services. The UPAs are arranged in pairs, with the subs mounted on their original brackets and positioned between each pair.
“The system at Stadium MK is quite simply the best I have heard,”? says VCP owner Vincent Clamp, who has been the main audio contractor in many stadium projects. As well as the sound, VCP was also responsible for implementing the security and CCTV systems at the venue, using a CobraNet infrastructure to integrate the Meyer Sound enclosures with the stadium’s paging and emergency evacuation system.
For Pete Winkelman, there is a lot more to choosing a Meyer Sound system for Stadium MK than the great sound. “This is all about the customer experience,”? Winkelman says. “This city has no tradition of professional football. How do you get people out of their living rooms? You do it by refusing to compromise, and the Meyer Sound system is a part of that.”?
The approach is novel, but it’s working. At the end of their first season at Stadium MK, MK Dons F.C. won its league with games to spare, attracting over 17,000 people to its final fixture – a record for the city. “We get more women and kids under 16 to our games than any other team,”? says Winkelman. “But we’ve only just begun. When the upper tier of the stadium is finished, it will increase capacity to over 30,000 and, thanks to Meyer Sound and the people who helped make the project happen, we will have plenty of power to cope with all those extra fans!”?
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