Gearing Up for the Challenge

Gearing Up for the Challenge

Securing and protecting one of the largest U.S. sporting complexes

Designed as a destination sports facility, the LakePoint Sporting Facility in Emerson, Ga., hosts top athletes from across the United States participating in nearly 50 competitive sports. From basketball and volleyball to wake boarding and baseball, LakePoint boasts more than 1,300 acres of land and five million square feet, with amenities to accommodate not only top athletes, but also family, spectators, athletic professionals and recruiters.

While the goal of this campus was to provide a facility for athletes to compete, it was the family, friends and spectators who had a big impact on how it was designed. In addition to exceptional views for each sporting event, the facility is large enough to entertain families and large groups long after their child has finished competing.

As with any sports complex, security and safety is a primary concern—not only for the athletes, but for the hundreds of spectators and staff as well. With sporting fields and facilities spread over such a large plot of land, the challenges of monitoring and securing the state-of-the-art complex are as unique as the competitions it hosts.

The Integrators: Selecting the Right Partners

After meeting with local business owners and reviewing a number of regional and state-wide integrators, it quickly became clear that LakePoint would require two partners: one to manage security and another to manage fire protection. With a focus on securing a low-voltage provider, executives chose LOUD Security Systems as the facility’s security integrator. The 10-year contract ensures continuity as the complex establishes itself as a sports destination, while also providing the flexibility to build on existing systems if needed. Critical Systems, a frequent partner of LOUD Security, became the fire integrator for this unique project.

Even with two integrators, it was important to select a single hardware and software provider to reduce complexities between security and fire monitoring. Honeywell was selected for its wide product assortment including fire alarms, security cameras, intrusion, access control and wiring. By using Honeywell, LakePoint security staff can consolidate both security and fire data within a simplified system.

“What drew us to the project was the enormity of the indoor and outdoor space. When working on a campus like this, they needed to be prepared for safety issues that fall outside of a standard office building scenario that would be more specific to families and young children,” said John Loud, president of LOUD Security Systems. “With all the activity and people, this project shared many of the same challenges as modern theme parks.”

Challenging Installations: Securing Free Span Buildings

In the center of all the baseball and lacrosse fields, LakePoint features the largest free span building in North America, sitting at 170,000 square feet. Depending on the schedule for the day, the building is equipped to be reconfigured into 12 hardwood basketball courts or 24 volleyball courts, an open area for cheerleading competitions, a space to host wrestling matches and endless other activities.

The number one requirement of the building: no columns allowed.

With 65 foot ceilings, and no columns or interior walls, the installation of the security and fire systems became significantly more complex than typical sports facilities. Beyond these two problems, the ceiling is consumed by essential sporting equipment from basketball hoops and scoreboards to volleyball nets and wall dividers. There was virtually no easy place for LOUD Security and Critical Systems to install the fire and life safety devices.

Due to this complexity, each integrator had to submit weight specifications of the technologies being recommended for installation. This allowed the facility to determine whether the ceiling could withstand all of the weight it would be holding, especially under circumstances such as inclement weather. A typical office building or retail store has enough support where security and fire installers never need to consider the weight of the equipment.

“Even though we examined a collection of 3D drawings, it is difficult to envision until it comes to life,” said Loud. “Once we established the design build, we then had to overcome the challenge of installing our systems at the same time as everyone else.”

Bill Van Loan, president of Critical Systems, described this challenge as the ‘card trick installation.’

On a strict timeline, the integrators were required to complete the installation of their devices on a busy ceiling, and at the same time as the other components and trades – sprinklers, HVAC, structural steel, electrical, fans, curtain walls, volleyball nets, basketball nets and many other retractable sporting apparatus.

“For the fire installation, a major challenge was perfecting the strobe synchronization,” Van Loan said.

He goes on to explain that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code requires having three or more strobes in the same “field of view” across the busy ceiling. The planning that went into the intricate design layout was sizable, considering the constant movement of scoreboards and nets they needed to work around. To accomplish this complicated task, the integrators installed several multiple power supplies which simultaneously push out synchronization to all strobes.

Both Loud and Van Loan attribute the success of the installation to their teams. “One way to get over these challenges is to have people on staff with experience,” Loud said. “Good management and communication kept us from getting in trouble.”

Optimizing Fire Protection: Combining Detection and Mass Notification

When it came to the fire alarm technology, Critical Systems looked for a networkable, intuitive state-of-the-art system that had characteristics of survivability, for instance the ability to withstand a breach and still work properly. They chose the Honeywell | Gamewell-FCI E3 Series system, which has the added benefit of being one of the only panels U.L. listed for both fire and mass notification messages in one setup.

Within a fiber optic backbone, this integrated and intuitive system can communicate seamlessly across the vast campus. This advantage authorizes facility operators to bypass individual maintenance and security points from any building, and allows them to broadcast mass notification messages across the campus, inside the facilities and outside on the playing fields. Once additional indoor facilities are added to the campus, LakePoint buildings will be connected through a fiber optic network to monitor all facilities from redundant command centers—or for more unique situations, have the ability to transmit live voice or pre-recorded messages from any one location. With an environment where families are spread across the campus, seamless communication between buildings was essential.

“Looking at these systems today, they are much more than just fire alarms, they are emergency evacuation systems. The Honeywell | Gamewell-FCI E3 Series will allow LakePoint staff to handle situations beyond fires such as building lockdowns, weather alerts and active shooter warnings,” Van Loan said.

Two command centers serve as the hub of the mass notification system, activating weather alerts, building lockdowns and other urgent messages. With the added security that comes with having two command centers instead of one, a location can take over if the other is compromised.

Beyond ensuring compliance with NFPA guidelines, the project fell under the state fire marshal instead of a local municipality— which meant much stricter enforcement. Bill Van Loan and his team had to work extensively with the fire marshal on variances and decisions specific to the structure and intricacies of this building. For example, the standard 30-foot height of ADA strobe placement had to be changed to 35-feet in order to avoid interference from ceiling equipment and stay in line, and in view, with the other strobes. The ADA strobe equivalency approach was implemented here and approved by the state fire marshal.

In addition to height requirements, the building also posed a challenge for the NFPA codes when it came to the audibility and intelligibility of evacuation tones and messages. Retractable walls, 6,000 spectators and 12 basketball games at once does not easily lend itself to perfectly clear, and intelligible, voice announcements. “In order to ensure all high-powered speaker clusters could project audio sufficiently, we built a mock-up panel to test our system and circuitry,” said Van Loan.

From the beginning, the project teams overcame uncommon difficulties such as installation in a free span building, navigating a busy ceiling, and adhering to code requirements in an unusual setting. But with big plans for an expansion under way, LakePoint has just seen the beginning of their challenges.

Looking Ahead: Expanding the Largest Sports Complex

The future of LakePoint could include the addition of hotels, gas stations, restaurants, ice cream shops, a convention center, a security holding center and much more. With these additional structures come increased needs from the security and fire systems.

Today, LakePoint leverages video surveillance, intrusion and fire panels in the building, with surveillance spread across the outdoor fields. Next up, the security and life safety team will be working to integrate these systems, and access control, into a singular interface to monitor all facilities, across all Honeywell platforms.

As the demand for state-of-the-art sports complexes increases, athletes and spectators will continue to seek out new training and competition facilities. By incorporating cutting edge security and life safety systems with innovative design, it’s no wonder LakePoint is a destination for athletes from across the country.

This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Security Today.

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