Community Loudspeakers Put Omaha's New Ballpark in Major League

Omaha is a city that loves its baseball. And despite the lack of a major league franchise, there's nothing minor league about the new TD Ameritrade Park. The $128 million stadium, which is home to the Creighton Bluejays and the College World Series, has brought a major league feel and major league baseball experience to the city.

The 2011 College World Series took place in the June for the first time in the NCAA Division I Baseball Championship's new home. The 24,300 seat stadium is among the game's most technologically advanced, with modern features including microphones embedded in home plate and the pitcher's mound, the second largest video board in the state of Nebraska, and a sub-air system within the playing surface that can either heat or cool the field.

The venue is also outfitted with high-tech sound reinforcement and broadcast cabling systems designed by Austin, Texas-based BAI and installed by Electronic Contracting Company Inc. of Lincoln, NE. With more than 700,000 feet of cabling and 120,000 watts of power, the sound system features more than 200 Community WET and R-Series weather-resistant loudspeakers. According to ECC's Chris Chavanu, there's not a bad seat in the house.

"It's one of the best designs I've ever seen for coverage in a ballpark. The distributed design of Community's WET and R-Series loudspeakers deliver even, consistent coverage to the entire stadium," Chavanu said.

The system includes a range of R.5 two-way short throw loudspeakers, including R.5-94, R.5COAX66 and R.5COAX99 models, augmented by R.25-94 compact two-way loudspeakers. Three R2-474 three-way loudspeakers provide long-throw coverage. Rounding out the system are more than 100 WET Series W2 models.

"Community's WET Series came into play because the area is very exposed to the elements. Nearly every Community loudspeaker is mounted onto a pole that stands 30 foot high and is continually exposed to the elements. We pre-assembled each loudspeaker and ran pink noise and rattle testing in the field. Some loudspeakers were mounted onto poles which were then lifted 150 feet in the air by a crane to be positioned and secured. It's a very unique set-up," Chavanu said.

The park has been equipped with a full complement of broadcast cabling. According to Mike Maryott, video productions coordinator for the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority, which operates the stadium, the cabling plan was developed with both the stadium's and ESPN's needs in mind. Maryott says the stadium has more cabling than most in its class, including DT-12, fiber, triaxial and coaxial. The additional cabling provides more microphones to make the crowd sounds denser and also allows individual sounds, like vendors, to be pulled into focus without taking away from the main-play audio.

"ESPN had a lot of requirements in the outfield for audio signals," he says, "so we ran a lot of single-mode fiber from a central patch point just beyond the 'batter's eye' past the centerfield fence and on out to the area where ESPN's broadcast trucks will be. We did the same, running fiber from there to the pitcher's mound and the batter's box."

As always, the signature sound of the CWS and college baseball in general is the 'ping' of the ball hitting the aluminum bat, a sound picked up well by Sony ECM 50 lavalier microphones buried 4 to 5 feet on either side of home plate. Each is encased in PVC and covered with one hard windscreen and two soft ones, just peeking out from the ground. They were augmented by the lavalier worn by the home plate umpire. In addition, all the field umpires were miked this year during the series.

"ESPN loves to get that ping," Maryott said. "Now they'll be able to pick it up better than ever."

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