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Hope College's Dow Center Covered by SRM450s.

Dow Center
  Dow Center

The Dow Center, a fieldhouse on the campus of Hope College in Holland, Mich., has hosted the school''s home basketball contests since it opened in 1978, in addition to serving a wide range of other athletic programs and classes.

Built in 1978, it''s comprised of three full-size basketball courts ringed completely by an upper-level running track. For basketball games, large-scale bleachers are rolled out and opened. where they span both of the long sides of the center basketball court and provide a total seating capacity of approximately 3,000.

Group Signal recently partnered with Dow Center staff—Facilities Director Brian Morehouse in particular—on development and installation of a new full-range sound reinforcement system to serve basketball games. Gary Zandstra, head of A/V systems for Group Signal, notes that the new system was more than necessary.

"About 10 years ago, I worked with Brian on upgrading the existing system and adding new electronics that resulted in better performance," says Zandstra. "This was considered a quick fix intended to extend the system''s life by about five years, but we got double that amount of time. It certainly was time for a markedly improved solution taking advantage of new techniques and technologies."

Specifically, the client wanted full-fidelity sound with added emphasis on voice quality for extremely clear, intelligible PA announcements during basketball games. Full, consistent sound coverage to every bleacher region, on both sides, was another priority. At the same time, flexibility for other specific needs, as well as extreme ease of operation, were on the criteria docket.

For the unique needs of this project, Zandstra envisioned a simple, cost-effective solution based upon Mackie SRM450 full-range, powered loudspeakers, flown with safety-rated rigging hardware at ceiling level.

With some careful calculation based upon his experience with applications of this type, Zandstra formulated a design where just three SRM450 loudspeakers per side would accomplish all intelligibility and coverage criteria. Each loudspeaker is carefully placed so that it covers a specific bleacher section both side-to-side and top-to-bottom, with any transitions between adjacent loudspeakers confined to aisles.

"The goal is to place coverage directly on the audience while minimizing stray energy as much as possible, because this compromises intelligibility," Zandstra explains. "These loudspeakers, with inherently good pattern control, help in achieving this. Because they include a matched power amplifier, the system is simplified in terms of cabling and other infrastructure. In addition, they''re more economical, but not at the sacrifice of quality. All in all, we''re talking about a good ''bang for the buck'' solution that benefits the needs of the client."

A small, secured equipment rack mounted on one of the fieldhouse walls contains all other system elements. A Shure DFR digital equalizer includes provisions for system presets that allow the operator to easily switch between three specialized modes of operation, depending on need. One is voice optimized for basketball games, another is optimized for full-range music, while a third is tailored, with digital delay, to allow one line of the loudspeakers to be used in conjunction with portable systems brought in for theatrical productions.

The other element in the rack is a six-channel analog mixer, which accepts inputs such as microphones and a CD player. It allows the operator to further tailor programming—if necessary—but its primary application is to route input sources and allow easy level (loudness) adjustment.

These flexible electronic components, combined with the powered loudspeakers, allowed for the elimination of a big rack needed for the previous system, which was stored in an adjacent room that is now used as an office. Most importantly, however, they provide a simple yet quite effective user interface affording all control they can possibly need, and at an attractive price point.

"We love the new sound system from Group Signal. It meets all of our needs, from pre -music at our sold-out games to a portable microphone for guest speakers in the gym," Morehouse concludes. "The sound is clear and clean. No muffled public address announcer at games, and the music really sounds great. Fans, coaches and professors are all very pleased with the results of our new system."


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