Cleveland Browns Revitalize In-Venue Video at FirstEnergy Stadium

Johnny Manziel or no Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns fans will have much to celebrate this season when FirstEnergy Stadium unveils its first major technology upgrade in 15 years. When the Browns open their regular season against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 13, those in attendance will be treated to a fully HD experience.

A rendering of the exterior of the renovated FirstEnergy Stadium

A rendering of the exterior of the renovated FirstEnergy Stadium

Built in 1999, FirstEnergy Stadium (formerly Cleveland Browns Stadium) featured outdated videoboards and an SD control room in need of an overhaul. Reconfiguring the end-zone structures with Gensler, the Browns were able to move their two primary videoboards 32 ft. lower and 56 ft. closer to the field.

“We worked with the team, and we came up with four or five different solutions,” says Ron Turner, principal/director, sports and recreation, Gensler. “We found a good balance because they really wanted to reduce some of the upper-level seats in the end zone that were difficult to sell. … We looked at how many seats to take out and exactly where those big scoreboards were going to land. They obviously wanted them as close as possible in the building to make it seem more intimate.”

The Browns tapped Daktronics, manufacturer of the stadium’s original videoboards, to design and install the new displays, which will be nearly three times the size and feature four times the resolution of the previous boards.

The two main video displays will be nearly 40 ft. high and measure 192 ft. wide at the top, angling to 178 ft. wide in the middle and approximately 132 ft. wide along the bottom.

“The Browns have kind of gone that extra mile for their fans and thought about bringing the video screens down into the stadium, which is something that we typically don’t see; once a stadium’s designed, they’ll have an area for the video screens, and a lot of times that’s the area,” says Daryl Mihal, Daktronics’ regional sales manager in the Cleveland area. “Very rarely do you see someone undertaking a complete reface of their stadium to fit the videoboards in and make them front and center for the game-day production.”

In total, Daktronics will install 25 displays throughout the stadium, each featuring high-quality 15 HD pixel resolution.

The new end-zone videoboards, here the east end zone, are 32 ft. lower than the previous displays and 56 ft. closer to the field.

The new end-zone videoboards, here the east end zone, are 32 ft. lower than the previous displays and 56 ft. closer to the field.

The Browns will add four Daktronics sponsor-deck displays — a northeast end-zone display approximately 10 ft. high x 70 ft. wide, a northwest end-zone display approximately 9 ft. high x 50 ft. wide, and two south-side end-zone displays in the upper seating area, each 20 ft. high x 30 ft. wide — and four lower-corner sponsor displays, each measuring 2.5 ft. high x 36 ft. wide.

Daktronics will install 14 LED ribbon displays: three at each end zone along the fascia of the upper seating area, three on each sideline’s fascia, and one on each sideline’s seating fascia. All 2.5 ft. high, the fascia displays range from 40 ft. to 372 ft. wide.

In addition, a marquee display will be installed on the outside of the stadium at the east end zone, serving as a continuation of the main video display of that end zone. This outward-facing display will be shaped like an inverted triangle and will be 28 ft. high at its tallest point and 100 ft. wide along the top, for more than 1,400 sq. ft. of display space.

The Browns plan to use the supplemental boards for sponsor-supplied and -created content as well as in-game information for fans, reserving the primary end-zone boards for live video content, replays, and other high-quality programming.

“The Browns were really looking for a unique experience, something that would obviously raise the bar technologically for their fans and also add something that would be unique to their stadium,” says Mihal. “[Something] that people could point to their stadium and understand that that’s the Browns’ stadium no matter where they are in the world if they happen to see it on TV and to give their fans a memorable experience when they’re in the stadium.”

BeckTV Gets the Call
To provide the best-possible fan experience, the Browns selected BeckTV to design and integrate a video-control room to drive the stadium’s 25 displays. Although the location of the control room remains the same (far west end of press level), the layout has been significantly remodeled.

An outward-facing display continues the end-zone videoboard.

An outward-facing display continues the end-zone videoboard.

Originally, the control room housed both machines and operators, with Daktronics gear placed in the same rack area as video equipment. Working with the team, Gensler, and consultant WJHW, BeckTV built a new room within the existing footprint to isolate the machines and better regulate the temperature and machine volume for operators.

“From day one, it was obvious that the room needed to be rebuilt,” says John FitzRandolph, VP of engineering, BeckTV. “We needed to separate the terminal equipment away from the operations people, so we started in on a design with the [Browns, and came up with] a couple different solutions to separating the two with a wall in between [and a] doorway into the equipment room.”

The 1080i-compatible control room features both new and repurposed equipment, including a Grass Valley 3M/E Kayenne switcher with K-Frame and a K2 Dyno replay system; ChyronHego HyperX and Mosaic character-generation systems; two Click Effects CrossFire systems; two Avid Nitris DX video-editing workstations with Media Composer 8; three Vista Spyder X20s; and an Imagine Communications Platinum HD router for video and audio distribution. BeckTV also designed and built custom consoles for all operator positions.

“They had a lot of stuff that they had bought over the last couple of years that still had good life in it and was already HD-ready,” explains FitzRandolph. “The plant was previously an SD plant with a little splash of HD here and there. We — we meaning BeckTV and the [Browns] — wanted to move the entire facility over to an HD solution and get away from analog and SD altogether.”

Upper-level end-zone seating was reduced to accommodate the new videoboards.

Upper-level end-zone seating was reduced to accommodate the new videoboards.

Additional equipment in the interior room includes five Daktronics racks as well as the RF TV system and audio amplifiers. ProMedia Ultrasound was selected to integrate the entirely new audio system, including a redesigned distributed speaker system.

The Browns added Grass Valley LDX cameras with Canon lenses to feed the board, as well as a Sony F55 camera for 4K production. More than 50 miles of new fiber and cabling was installed, including new SMPTE fiber (originally installed in 2008) to relocated camera positions and new camera booths in either end zone.

One Phase Down, One To Go
In addition to the upgraded videoboards and overhauled control room, the Browns’ $150 million renovation, spearheaded by Turner Construction, will increase lower-bowl seating capacity; add new sponsor decks and new escalators at the east and west gates; enhance gates for improved entry; and improve general-admission concession offerings prior to this season’s home opener.

Following the 2014 season, the Browns will continue to improve general-admission concession offerings; modernize club seats, suites, and premium areas; add new hospitality and fan-engagement areas; and further enhance audio and video.

All photo renderings courtesy of the Cleveland Browns