COLUMBUS, OHIO: Nationwide Arena is home to the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League and is host to most of the popular musical acts that travel through Ohio’s capital city. Depending on its configuration, Nationwide Arena can accommodate between 17,000 and 21,000 people, and its recent turn-of-the-millennium design and construction have been widely praised by sports fans and critics. ESPN The Magazine wrote that Nationwide Arena is “the No. 2 stadium experience in professional sports” and the “Ultimate Sports Road Trip” deemed it the greatest arena in the NHL. However, poor sound system coverage had been Nationwide Arena’s dirty little secret since it opened its doors in 2000, and the owners were wisely unwilling to rest on their laurels. Recently, as part of a project that included a massive video upgrade, acoustical consultant Anthony James Partners joined A/V integration firm Daktronics to bring sound reinforcement in line with the rest of the arena’s amenities using efficient, point-source Danley Sound Labs loudspeakers and subwoofers.
“Achieving even coverage with conventional loudspeaker technologies is challenging because low-frequency pattern control is seldom very good,” explained Larry Lucas, director of audio engineering with Anthony James Partners. “As a result, system components interfere with each other and create uneven coverage that cannot be rectified with all the processing in the world. Danley Sound Labs’ unconventional designs array seamlessly and deliver excellent pattern control. Moreover, they are inexpensive relative to their output, which provides exceptional return on investment for the client.”
The design called for eight primary clusters distributed equally around the arena. Each cluster contains two Danley SH-96 full-range loudspeakers hard-packed side-by-side and a Danley TH-118 subwoofer. Eight wide-dispersion Danley SM-100 loudspeakers populate a delay ring that provides coverage for Nationwide Arena’s highest tier. Two additional SH-96s cover the ice. Daktronics installed all of the clusters on chain motors for easy servicing and, in the case of those clusters whose positions would interfere with musical acts, easy hoisting.
The rest of the sound reinforcement system benefitted from the retrofit as well. A new Allen & Heath iLive console provides 32 inputs and 16 outputs at the main mix position and 16 inputs and 8 outputs at a remote position. A QSC Q-Sys processor with a 500i core provides input conditioning, routing logic, and modest loudspeaker conditioning. Lab.gruppen PLM-series amplifiers deliver clean power to the Danley loudspeakers and subwoofers. Because both the Q-Sys processing system and the PLM-series amplifiers are network-ready, Daktronics was able to provide the owners with comprehensive monitoring facilities in the A/V control room.
Nationwide Arena’s new high-definition sound reinforcement system complements a new high-definition video system. Its showpiece is a new 43,000 lb. scoreboard that uses nearly sixteen million LEDs to display high-definition video on four 25-foot by 15.5-foot screens. The brilliant scoreboard hangs over center ice. In addition, two “party towers” now use LED technology to project 25-foot by 14-foot video images in the west corners of the arena. Various smaller screens project in upgraded high-definition, and the resolution of the ribbon video board that circles most of the arena is doubled.
“With the Danley system installed, the coverage is close to perfect,” said David Sturzenbecher, audio project engineer with Daktronics. “The design specification called for +/- 4dB throughout, and the system measures closer to +/- 2dB throughout. Because the Danley products deliver so much output, we needed vastly fewer boxes to provide full coverage than we would have used with conventional loudspeakers or line arrays. That let us give them a very high-performance system at a much lower price tag. And not only is the coverage excellent, but so too is the fidelity and low-frequency extension.” Jeff Baumgartner, Nationwide’s in-house A/V engineer stated, “Daktronics design engineers created a virtual arena and accurately predicted the performance throughout the arena. Overall, I am extremely pleased with the system. Coverage is darn near perfect.”
ABOUT DANLEY SOUND LABS Danley Sound Labs is the exclusive home of Tom Danley, one of the most innovative loudspeaker designers in the industry today and recognized worldwide as a pioneer for “outside the box” thinking in professional audio technology.