Overhaul at Mile High: Denver Broncos’ Sports Authority Field Gets Comprehensive Facelift
When an NFL franchise sells out every single home game for 43 consecutive seasons, it never hurts to give back to the fans that fill the stadium each Sunday. That’s exactly what the Denver Broncos were looking to do when they greenlighted an approximately $24 million renovation of audio-visual facilities at Sports Authority Field at Mile High’s last fall.
“Right after the announcement of the [renovations, Denver Broncos President] Joe Ellis said, ‘I just hope we put on a good show,’” recounts Mike Bonner, the team’s senior director of event presentation and production. “In the simplest terms, we are just trying to fulfill his wish and even top it by putting on a really great show. We want to give the fans more and excite them with the new things we can do with the boards.”
With a sprawling new 222- x 40-ft. HD videoboard, crystal-clear audio, and more than 11,000 HD video monitors throughout Sports Authority Field (not to mention a legitimate Super Bowl contender on the field), don’t expect that sell-out streak to end anytime soon.
“The NFL has recognized that fans have an unbelievable experience sitting at home these days, with HD [telecasts] and their phones and iPads, so the experience at home is now the competition,” says Pat Jordan, director of broadcasting, Denver Broncos. “So we needed to do whatever we could to enhance the experience here at the stadium to make sure we give our fans what they want. And what our fans want is an unbelievable sound system, information, scores, stats, and crystal-clear high-definition video. Recognizing those fan needs was a driving force behind this investment.”
A Tight Timeline
After issuing an RFP in August 2012, the Broncos opted to go with Daktronics videoboards and tapped Sony as the overall systems integrator (which sub-contracted the control-room integration to Beck Associates), Parsons Electric as the audio-systems integrator, and AT&T and Cisco StadiumVision for the IPTV system (in partnership with MoeBAM! Venue Media Services).
Construction began in January, and the bulk of the renovations were completed by May to kick off Sports Authority’s schedule of summer events. All systems were in place on July 4 for the stadium’s first major event, a Denver Outlaws lacrosse game followed by a fireworks show that drew 30,000 people. A pair of CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifying matches on July 14 followed.
The New Look of Sports Authority Field
In addition to the massive 40- x 222-ft., 13-mm videoboard behind the south end zone, the Broncos have added a pair of Daktronics 30- x 62-ft., 15-mm board in the north stands, and a 42- x 1,424-ft., 20-mm LED fascia ribbon display.
The concave structure of the primary south–end-zone board provides fans with better viewing angles from any seat. In addition, the center 180-ft.-wide board is flanked by two 16-ft.-wide “wings.” Using the Christie Spyder video-processing system, the Broncos video team can take over the whole board at any moment (such as a key point in the game) or split out the wings separately to display out-of-town scores and game information.
“We are able to window the board in multiple ways to provide information and advertising on the board, as well as the game in progress and the live video,” says Jordan. “The Spyder allows us to do transitions between different looks, so we can take over the entire 222-ft. structure with a full-board graphic or video, which we do for our opening. It really is just jaw-dropping.”
The Parsons-installed audio system consists of JBL speakers in the bowl, QSC’s Q-SYS digital-audio control system, Lab.Gruppen amplifiers, a Yamaha M7-CL32 digital mix console in the control room, and Shure wireless mics with an Axient wireless-management network.
The approximately 1,100 Sony television monitors scattered throughout the stadium range from 32 in. to 55 in., and all run on a comprehensive Cisco StadiumVision IPTV system supplied by AT&T, which is also building out the stadium’s DAS (distributed antenna system) to enhance fans’ ability to connect on mobile devices.
Mile-High Control Room
The Broncos were familiar with Beck and Associates, which served as the control-room integrator when the system was built in 2001. The team enlisted Beck to overhaul an aging SD control room that was “hanging on with a bit of duct tape and glue,” as Jordan puts it.
The new control room is centered on a Ross Video Vision 6-MLE switcher and features an Evertz Xenon video router (128×320) and Evertz EMR audio router (96×96), three four-channel Grass Valley K2 Dyno replay servers, a Ross XPression 3D HD character generator and motion-graphics system (along with a Click Effects Crossfire for stats/graphics playback), a Ross Blackstorm playout server, Ross’s Inception social-media–management platform (along with Chyron Shout social-media–editing software).
Communications are tied together throughout the stadium through Riedel’s Artist digital matrix intercom system and Clear-Com Tempest wireless intercom system.
Rocky Mountain Thunder: Amping Up the In-Game Show
During the game, the Broncos video team has six new Sony HDC-2550 cameras with Canon lenses, two IMT NuComm wireless RF cameras, and 12 feeds from the broadcast truck to produce its videoboard show.
“We never imagined it would look this good,” says Jordan. “We had high hopes but never thought that we would achieve the level [of quality] that we have here on the boards and that the fans would react so positively. It’s really amazing.”
The Broncos has also drastically increased production of original content for the in-game videoboard show. Much of this content is already being produced for Broncos TV on DenverBroncos.com but is now being used for the in-game show as well.
“The original content is so important to us,” says Bonner, who came aboard earlier this year after 14 years with the New York Yankees. “We are highlighting all the original content we were already doing on Broncos TV but giving it more legs by putting it on our videoboard. It was also extremely important to get the player involved. With the great sound system and new boards, it’s important that we give fans quality content to watch on those boards.”
Preserving the History of the Orange and Blue
In addition to the total overhaul of all audio and video systems, the Broncos are looking to take a major leap forward in archiving and asset-management operations. The team has brought in Facilis shared-storage and CatDV digital-asset–management products in an effort to digitize its library of content (primarily program feeds and scoreboard shows), which dates back to the stadium’s opening in 2001 and remains largely on tape.
“One of my big quests here is building up the library and the archive,” says Bonner. “Where I came from [with the Yankees], history was everything, and that is true with the Broncos as well. You don’t want the younger generation to not know about these older guys, and you don’t want the older generation to forget them. So we are running a lot more [historical segments] to show the great history of this franchise and will work to build up a [digital] library that we can draw content from.”