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
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
"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
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."