CASE STUDY

Melbourne Ballpark

Overview

The Australian Baseball League team Melbourne Aces engaged Mozaix to revamp the equipment and setup at Melbourne Ballpark to enhance the gameday experience.

Details

Client Name
Melbourne Ballpark
Location
Laverton, Victoria
Website

The Challenge

Melbourne Ballpark’s public-address-style audio system had hardly been modified since the venue opened 30 years ago, leaving the stadium – and, with it, baseball in Victoria – lagging behind almost every other professional sport in terms of the gameday fan experience.

In addition to the Aces, other baseball stakeholders (notably Baseball Victoria) had some input into the project, while there were several components that were added after Mozaix initially met with the team to scope the work.

Background

The stadium is on a large plot of land in an industrial part of Altona, about 15 minutes’ drive down the freeway from the Melbourne CBD. Some of the finishing touches were still being completed when the Melbourne Monarchs played their first home games there in December 1989, as part of the first incarnation of the ABL. It was officially opened in January 1990.

The main grandstand seats 2200 with approximately a third of those seats under cover. With further capacity down the first and third baselines, the stadium can hold around 5000 spectators. There is a function room under the seating, behind home plate.

The Melbourne Aces, a foundation club of the reborn ABL, moved to the venue for their third season, in the summer of 2012/2013. Just prior to that, Sport and Recreation Victoria funded a major upgrade that focused on the playing surface, player amenities, landscaping, and fundamental equipment, including the light towers and PA system.

Our Solution

Mozaix came to the project when a third party, who had been speaking to the Aces, didn’t think they could do the job. They suggested that we could provide a great solution, so we met with the key stakeholders, including Aces General Manager Justin Huber and the owner of the club’s major sponsor Jet Couriers, Brett Ralph.

Even though they weren’t really sure what they needed – apart from a handful of quite clear must-have features – and had a relatively small budget, we listened carefully and soon realised what they were trying to envisage and achieve: providing a gameday experience to underpin the revitalisation of baseball in Australia.

Melbourne Ballpark was already considered to be the best baseball venue in the country, having hosted most of the annual ABL all-star games, even with what amounted to a fairly rudimentary public address system. Not to dwell on what was there before we started but suffice to say that the control room was full of bird droppings!

They had recently installed a massive 18-metre LED wall in right field, so there was a real imperative to ensure the audio was also brought into the 21st century.

Project Features

Broadcast equipment for 4K video production facility, including:

A long list of high-tech production equipment such as

o   Blackmagic ATEM Television Studio Pro 4K scaler

o   Blackmagic HDMI to SDI Mini Converters

o   Blackmagic SDI to Audio 4K Mini Converter

o   Blackmagic SmartVideohub router (supports any SD, HD or Ultra HD SDI format on the same router at the same time)

o   QSC Core 110f 128×128 Network Processor

o   Audio Technica BPHS1 Broadcast Headsets

o   Custom Ambient Noise Condenser Microphone setup

o   Crowd Ambience System

Fully-integrated audio equipment & software, including:

A long list of audio production equipment such as

o   Sennheiser ew 500 Wireless Microphone set

o   Custom headset microphone & headphone control plate

o   Crowd ambience system

o   Powersoft Quattrocanali amplifiers with Dante

o   Apple iPad control system

o   Cisco Gigabit PoE Managed Switch

o   ATLAS Multipurpose Horn Speaker System

o   Yamaha bass reflex surface mount speakers

o   Apart dual cone active surface mount speaker monitors

What they needed and what they wanted

There were several priorities, but chief among them was even coverage across the stand. The existing system offered wildly varying listening experiences. Depending on where you were trying to watch a game from, you could be in a dead spot hearing next to nothing or only a block of seats away having your eardrums rattled.

They also wanted something simple and reliable, so that nearly anyone could operate the system when lower league games were being played, and it needed to distribute audio into the rooms and the dugouts for the players.

Apart from the functional needs, the Aces’ goal was to create a far more exciting and engaging ambience. They wanted people to enjoy their gameday experience to the point that they not only couldn’t wait to come back next time but went away and told their friends what they were missing.

That meant stepping up the music to the next level, using bigger, better speakers with a lot more warmth (as opposed to the tinny, music-being-pushed-through-public-address-speakers sound that they were used to).

Mozaix presented a proposed solution, which the Aces liked. Then they told us what they really wanted!

When you attend a rugby, rugby league, or soccer match at AAMI Park (Melbourne Rectangular Stadium), as you enter the concourse on the way in, the sounds of the venue signal that you’re at an exciting event straight away, even before you see the playing field.

The Aces wanted that same sort of vibe throughout Melbourne Ballpark, including pre- and post-game, but particularly when play was underway.

What we delivered

We’d never previously done a stadium, not that a sporting venue is significantly different from any other venue, but the main difference at Melbourne Ballpark is that it’s not a completely enclosed venue. That does present some complications with the way sound travels, particularly when the wind is a factor.

We identified the ideal outdoor, all-weather speakers as the Atlas IED music horns. These are big speakers that don’t look much different to what you might see on a pole in a shopping centre carpark, except they have a large 12-inch woofer behind them to reduce the ‘squawkiness’ and make them much better for playing music.

They offer a variety of flare angles, allowing us to be a bit more focused on an area, rather than trying to spread the sound as far as possible. This also enhances the musicality. They are used extensively in high school and college sports venues in the US.

Yamaha VXS series speakers were selected for the premium seating areas and dugout, while those and various other more suitable speakers were installed in the internal spaces, such as corporate boxes, the foyer and concourse, change rooms, bathrooms, and so on.

We put one of the big speakers in the centre of the roofline and pointed it back at the ground, which means the players can feel the vibe for the first time. There are also speakers on the edge of the stadium to the sides, for those watching from the sideline gardens.

The entire setup is controlled via our favoured QSC Q-SYS system, located in the announcer’s booth. The Q-SYS Core gives us the ability to set up virtually any sort of configuration, which allows a great deal of versatility

It also means we can simplify the operation down to an iPad. Anyone with the required access can turn whatever they need (or don’t need) on and off, adjust levels for inputs, including microphones, and speaker outputs.

The main function room has a stand-alone system where they can present into the room or out into the ground, in fact, you can switch any zone on or off or take presentations from the other zones.

How we delivered the added ‘extras’

This was one of those particularly enjoyable projects, partly because the client didn’t know all the details of what they really needed up front, which always gives us some scope to exercise our creativity in formulating and implementing a solution.

The scope did evolve along the way, including the provision of a full mix-down for the broadcast team on local sports radio station SEN.

We also found ourselves adding a video and camera switching backbone for the LED wall, which wasn’t even discussed at the start of the project.

And then there was that challenge of creating a vibrant, exciting gameday ambience.

For our custom solution, we realised that the stands wouldn’t always be packed, so we needed to be able to strike the right balance between the level of our inputs and the actual crowd noise.

In order to do this, we sample the crowd in attendance at each game to track the variance in level and that automatically triggers different tracks so that whatever is coming through the system matches the game and its crowd.

That intelligent solution was perhaps the icing on the cake of what was a very satisfying job. We were able to be a bit creative to shape the solution to fit and we’re delighted to say that it turned out even better than the Aces expected.

We’ll see you at Melbourne Ballpark for a hotdog and a resounding rendition of Take Me Out to the Ballgame!