Revving Up Rider Nation – A Harman Pro solution at the new Regina Mosaic Stadium
As any sports fan even remotely familiar with the Canadian Football League could tell you, Saskatchewan Roughriders fans are as loyal – and loud – as any you’ll find across the major leagues. Considering Saskatchewan and, more specifically, its capital are among the smaller markets for professional sports in Canada, the green-and-white faithful support their club in greater numbers and with far greater fervor – sometimes wearing watermelons on their heads – than one would ever expect.
As Regina native and one-time Rider guard Ben Heenan once told Vice Sports, “I think the loyalty between the fans and their team is very representative of the type of people that are in Saskatchewan. Loyalty, dedication, and hard work are all characteristics that Saskatchewan has been built with.”
Those are also characteristics that were integral to the recently completed construction process of Mosaic Stadium, the Roughriders’ new home field for the 2017-18 CFL season. The $278.2-million facility is the product of over 800 construction days and the first landmark project of the City of Regina’s three phase, $1 billion Regina Revitalization Initiative.
The stadium – easily among the most recognizable buildings in its home city – features visual appointments like a massive spectator roof covering the sunken bowl and a continuous concourse surrounding the sleek, horseshoe-shaped structure.
And to compete with the hoards of fans hoarsely screaming support at their home team, it also features a significant sound system that ensures consistent, even, and yes, loud coverage across every seat in the standard football configuration.
In the spring of 2011, then-mayor Pat Fiacco formally rolled out plans for the Regina Revitalization Initiative with a focus on the new Mosaic Stadium. The new facility would replace the Roughriders’ longtime home of Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field, which hosted its first CFL match in 1936.
The design aspect of the project was awarded to Dallas-based firm HKS Architects, Inc. in a joint venture with Toronto’s B+H Architects, the architect of record. Construction began in early 2016, with PCL Construction at the helm as the general contractor.
The 33,000-capacity stadium (expandable to 40,000 in a special event configuration) was designed to not only connect with the surrounding community, but also to create a feeling of spaciousness while offering an improved level of comfort and in-game experience.
Among the features that contribute to those goals are its spectator roof and open south end zone, the wide main concourse, the majority of the seats being part of the lower bowl, a general admission lounge for patrons, and improved access to concessions and washrooms.
The design flexibility also offers the ability to host different events of different scales and capacities throughout the year – like the recent Regina Rocks Mosaic Stadium concert that featured performances by Bryan Adams, Our Lady Peace, and Johnny Reid. While such events – particularly music performances – will typically bring in alternate sound systems, the stadium’s integrated system is adaptable for several different configurations; however, its primary goal is to keep Rider Nation informed, interested, and immersed in the game.
PCL enlisted the help of both Winnipeg- based technology integration firm Advance Pro, led by Peter Bernatsky, and the sound system design expertise of Canadian engineering consultancy firm Smith + Andersen, led by Dustin Su. “We didn’t play what’s considered the typical role of the consultant,” Su explains, noting that he and Bernatsky were essentially working on the same team as sub-contractors of PCL (along with PCL’s electrical contractor of record, Alliance Energy) overseeing the sound system design and integration. “Our role was rooted in communication and collaboration, and really about managing everyone’s expectations – the client, the engineers, the contractors…”
Thinking back to the outset of his involvement, Bernatsky says there weren’t any hard specs in place for the audio system. “We were given certain baseline requirements – speech intelligibility, SPL levels within the building – but at the end of the day, it was on Advance Pro and Smith + Andersen to come up with a design that would meet those requirements with an accessible, industry-standard system that was within our budget guidelines.”
Su says the high-level goal was to deliver a premium fan experience. “We wanted coverage at every seat to be even, loud, and get good response for music, but also be very intelligible for speech – when referees make their calls or the PA announcer is giving updates.”
The massive distributed system they designed and later installed covers the entire building, from the main bowl to the concourses, lounges, suites, and other public spaces. The PA – comprised of various JBL models – will accommodate game-day coverage, tying into production with the rest of the facility, but also handle background music and paging requirements, including emergency paging. JBL’s Precision Directivity Series weatherized loudspeakers cover the main bowl, including PD764 high-output mid-high boxes and PD7145 subwoofers. JBL’s CBT100LA column arrays are loaded throughout the concourses and various models from the Control Contractor Series cover the back-of-house, including Control 28s and in-ceiling models used for the lounges and suites.
“The back of house areas are extremely well designed and outfitted with technology to host non-sporting events,” Bernatsky notes. “For example, they have some beautifully appointed public lounge areas they could use for conventions or other corporate events.”
That said, it’s been clear from the outset that the primary focus of Mosaic Stadium is professional football. Smith + Andersen worked closely with the architects and engineers to cover as many of the seats in their initial bowl system design as possible; however, owing to the unique shape of the stadium, some of the seating areas were slightly or completely blocked, so house fills were deployed to cover the sonic shadows.
Notably, the PA was required to interface with the fire alarm and emergency paging system, particularly in the main bowl. “That’s becoming more prevalent in large sports facilities, where the main bowl system can relay an emergency page,” Bernatsky offers, adding that the back-of-house areas are on a separate alarm and paging system. “This is a relatively new concept in North America in particular,” Bernatsky continues. “In Europe, they have regulations and protocols they’ve followed in these types of scenarios, but in North America, each jurisdiction handles that a little differently.”
Su adds that working within an electrical engineering firm was of particular benefit when it came to submitting a variance report to the City of Regina. “So between our team and our contractor and code consultants, we could specify why this approach was important and why it’s practical to use a large stadium system for emergency paging.”
The control components for the majority of the system are housed in the main game operations centre – a designated space on the west side of the stadium where the game operations teams and technical producers will operate adjacent to the mix engineers and announcers. Being a primarily Harman Professional-based spec, the system incorporates Crown amplification and BSS DSP throughout, though it’s a Roland M5000C digital console at the primary mix position. “We’ve had some great experiences with Roland in the past,” Bernatsky attests about the choice. “It’s a very good user interface, and very price competitive considering the feature set, so we could meet budget and performance requirements without any difficulty whatsoever.”
Su notes that the venue employs an interesting DSP solution incorporated by Advance Pro’s Wayne Edel, who suggested pairing Dante with BSS’s proprietary BLU link protocol. The solution essentially offers a combination of networking protocols. With its open west end, the stadium resembles a horseshoe that’s been divided into four networking quadrants. From the central equipment location, audio can be distributed to the four connected quadrants via Dante. “Once you’ve hit that first processor, now you can go within those processors in each quadrant and then digitally to all the amplifiers with BLU link,” Su explains. “So there’s a degree of redundancy through Dante, but there’s some efficiency in BLU link because, when you’re in a manufacturer’s ecosystem, you can take advantage of a lot of their enhanced features from control and monitoring, and we basically did that with Hi-Q Net, combining the two layers of digital networking technology.” Bernatsky says the biggest challenge his team faced on the integration side came down to the positioning and rigging for the main bowl system, as is usually the case with large venue systems. With the spectator roof raked around in the aforementioned horseshoe design, there was plenty of steel to access for rigging; however, it wasn’t always in the optimal configuration. “In a lot of cases, the steel wasn’t at the ideal angle or we couldn’t use the desired points for structural reasons,” Bernatsky continues. “It’s not something that surprised us, but it is a consistent and ongoing challenge in large venues like this.”
While loudspeaker prediction software has advanced substantially over the years to offer a very accurate idea of coverage, Bernatsky says he and his team often wish there was a program that could accurately predict how speakers would respond to gravity and the elements when suspended from aircraft cable in various rigging configurations. “We were given some pretty specific rigging points,” he continues, “which is a challenge as we don’t have the flexibility to move them about to suit our ideal positions and angles.” This was another area where Su and his team were able to apply some expertise. The entire project was designed in Revit BIM software, and Smith + Andersen has a skilled Revit team in house. “There’s a lot of information that goes into these models,” he begins. “The challenge is only extracting the information you need for a particular task. For example, one of the tasks we took on was extracting the roof steel out of the software and then aligning that with EASE [acoustic simulation software] to calculate placement. So one of the interesting challenges was bringing together the physical design from BIM and the computer designs created in EASE and then figuring out where the speakers should go and how they should be aimed.” Once again, good communication and detailed collaboration were critical to the project’s success.
While the Roughriders’ first game at Mosaic Stadium will be a pre-season showdown with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers on June 10th, the venue has played host to some post-secondary football matches in anticipation of the upcoming CFL season, along with a few other public events dating back to the fall of 2016. “The comments from the ownership group and various interest groups were very positive,” Bernatsky shares. “That was a good initial litmus test and the project would get an A grade on our part, though we’re looking forward to working through the first few Riders games with the full house to tweak it and get it optimized.” Advance Pro was working in parallel with the main system contract to also outfit the facility with over 350 digital signage displays as well as its broadcast cable infrastructure, and just recently completed work on the Broadcast Replay Control Room – “which was equally as complex and challenging in its own right,” Bernatsky notes.
Weighing in with final thoughts, Su is quick to praise the work of HKS and B+H on the initial design. “They had a great vision for this space,” he says. “It’s really a beautiful facility.” Bernatsky adds some kind words for the team at PCL and electrical contractor Alliance Energy. “From an integrator’s point of view, working with PCL was a real pleasure,” he says. “In terms of the physical execution, they were very accommodating, good with scheduling, and good with supporting us and our requirements. Great company to work with.”
As for Alliance, “They were very well structured and organized. They did the cable pathways and pulled cables for us, so an honourable mention there because we appreciate that level of local coordination and support and they were exceptionally good to work with.” Su also recognizes the City of Regina and the other stakeholders for allocating the proper resources to the project, considering the importance of football in the province and all that this venue represents. Indeed, one of the most passionate fan bases in pro sports and the team they support deserve a good home, though Su understands the importance of the project to the city and province as a whole. “It’s a very high-profile project, and there are a lot of different stakeholders – the city, architects, and engineers and contractors with different jobs. It’s a lot of late nights and sometimes tense discussions, but for me, personally, I’ve always taken the view that these projects are really important. This is a part of a bigger revitalization of Regina in general and is very important to the community. “As long as you keep that in perspective,” he adds, “the late nights and revisions are all worth it, and working with PCL and Advance Pro, I think we’ve all taken that view. That’s part of why the project has been so successful. The stadium is the focal point of professional sports in a die-hard market, and this building is one to be proud of.”
Main Bowl Speakers
14 x JBL PD764WRX Weatherized Full Range Speaker
14 x JBL PD7145 WRX Weatherized Subwoofer
14 x JBL PD6212/95WRX Weatherized Speaker
7 x JBL PD6212/64WRX Weatherized Speaker
15 x JBL PD6212/66WRX Weatherized Speaker
8 x JBL AW566 15-in. 2 Way Full Range Speaker
Back of House Loudspeakers
212 x JBL Control25T
294 x JBL Control28T60
23 x JBL Control328CT
15 x JBL CBT100LA1
389 x JBL Control 26CT
112 x Atlas GA30T Paging Horn
7 x BSS Blu806
8 x BSS Blu Analogue Output Card
1 x BSS Blu Digital Line Input Card
7x BSS Blu Analogue Input Card
Main Bowl Amplification
16x Crown DCI4/1250N 4CH – 1250W Amplifier
5 x Crown DC12/1250N 2CH – 1250W Amplifier
13 x Crown DCI4/2400N 4CH – 2400W Amplifier
Back of House Amplification
2 x Crown DCI4/300N 4CH 300W 70V Amplifier
5 x Crown DCI4/600N 4CH 600W 70V Amplifier
9 x Crown DCI4/1250N 4CH 1250W Amplifier
Suite Level Upper Fill Speakers
12 x JBL Control25AV
1 x Crown CI2/1250N 2CH 1250W Amplifier
Suite Level Lower Fill Speakers
9 x JBL Control29AV
1 x Crown DCI12/1250N – 2CH 1250W Amplifier
by: Andrew King, Editor-in-Chief of Professional Sound.