Sporting Kansas City Shows Off New Brand at New Stadium
The MLS’s Kansas City Wizards will complete their transformation into Sporting Kansas City on June 9, when the team shows off its new name and new look inside a brand-new stadium, LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The new $200 million soccer-specific stadium, which seats 18,467, features more than 300 IPTV networked screens throughout the building, plus two 32:9 Panasonic video boards, set to create the optimal soccer environment.
The South End video board, which measures 2,016 sq. ft., is 1,600 pixels wide; a smaller, North End video board measures 550 sq. ft. by 832 pixels. The video-operations staff for Sporting Kansas City will compress 1080i video signals down to 1,600 to meet the boards’ 32:9 aspect ratio.
“We’re doing everything in HD, but the actual signal that goes out to the boards is compressed from the 1,920 pixels wide that comes with 1080i to 1,600,” explains Brad Mertel, director of video operations for Sporting Kansas City.
Having spent several years as a freelancer in and around Kansas City, Mertel is very familiar with the Kansas City fan’s expectations. He has worked on in-venue broadcasts for the NFL’s Chiefs and MLB’s Royals, as well as University of Kansas sports teams, so taking the reins as producer of the game-day video-board broadcasts at the new soccer stadium will round out his sports portfolio.
Mertel’s team will feed the two Panasonic video boards with content captured using three Canon HD cameras, one wireless and two mounted. The production team will also have access to television feeds of each game that is not televised nationally.
“We do our own television broadcasts that are produced in-house and air on the Sporting Television Network, on one of our local stations,” Mertel explains. “On most games, unless we are national, we’ll be able to take a lot of cameras from the production truck, since they’re also doing an in-house production.”
Inside the control room, Mertel also has access to a Yamaha audio board, two Click Effects Blaze digital sign controllers (one for the field boards, one for video-board graphics), a Click Effects CrossFire system, a Ross Vision switcher, a four-channel EVS replay system with XFile, a Chyron HyperX3 graphics platform, and a host of converter boxes, tape decks, DVD players, and engineering equipment.
Although the video-production team has an equipment arsenal large enough to create an elaborate in-game show, Mertel observes that soccer is less about the entertainment factor and more about showcasing the game.
“In MLS and soccer as a whole, once the game starts, the fans have a habit of creating their own entertainment, with songs and chants that they sing,” he explains. “Our soccer team is our crown jewel, and they’re the most important, so we will feature them on the video board a lot. My job is to entertain all of the fans. If we can get that all done with soccer and we’re scoring goals left and right, that’s great. But, if we need so play videos and put up some graphics, that’s where more entertainment will fit in, in addition to the soccer.”
Sporting Kansas City will make its rebranded debut on June 9, when the team’s season opens against the Chicago Fire on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN3.com. As excited as he is about the on-field product, Mertel can’t wait to see how the fans react when they walk into the new state-of-the-art stadium.
“When we get everything fired up and get our massive video board going, I’m really looking forward to getting the fans’ reactions on that first game day,” he says. “We will show the players up on the video board, show the lights in the players’ eyes, and really wow the crowd. We have an incredible stadium; the video-board production that I’m doing is only part of it. With IPTV televisions throughout the building in suites and club areas, this is one of the most advanced stadiums that certainly the MLS has ever seen.”