Sports Venue Technology Summit: UW’s Husky Stadium Epitomizes Today’s Connected Venue

With videoboards, IPTV deployments, and in-venue connectivity that increasingly rival the pros, collegiate athletics continue to make their mark in the venue space. The University of Washington’s newly renovated Husky Stadium boasts these enhancements plus new premium areas, wider concourses and aisles, and an 85,000-sq.-ft. football-operations center.

Yesterday, more than 100 industry professionals convened at Husky Stadium in Seattle for SVG’s annual Sports Venue Technology Summit. A tour of Husky Stadium, which allowed attendees to check out the results of the venue’s $280 million renovation, was followed by an afternoon of panel discussions ranging from mobile-video strategies to control-room technologies and the place of 4K in venues.

UW’s Chip Lydum (right) was joined by Van Wagner's Robert Jordan to discuss the renovation of Husky Stadium.

UW’s Chip Lydum (right) was joined by Van Wagner’s Robert Jordan to discuss the renovation of Husky Stadium.

The Husky Stadium project may be considered a renovation, but the result bears virtually no resemblance to the venue’s previous iteration, which opened in 1920. The various upgrades done over the years pale in comparison with the massive structural, operational, and technological changes made to the stadium prior to the 2013 season.

On the stadium’s south side, both the lower bowl and upper deck were torn down and rebuilt. The stadium’s west side — opposite the open east side, which faces Lake Washington — was moved closer to the field, and the field was lowered by several feet and moved slightly north. Crews removed the running track that had long surrounded the field, bringing fan seating closer to the action.

Although these changes certainly change the appearance of Husky Stadium, the technology upgrades set the venue apart. The Sports Venue Technology Summit opened with a presentation by Chip Lydum, Associate AD, operations and capital projects, UW Athletics, and Robert Jordan, SVP, Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, two key players in ushering Husky Stadium into the digital era.

“We got to that moment where we were trying to leap from analog to digital, and we toured New Meadowlands Stadium — now MetLife Stadium — and that was when we really knew we had a problem. We didn’t want to have an obsolete stadium on the day we opened, and so we had some soul-searching to do,” explains Lydum. “But, along the way, we did meet Bob Jordan. He was just coming off that project, and he had a lot of technical knowledge and was someone we could count on to articulate what we were missing.”

Working with Jordan, UW Athletics merged the venue’s various technological components onto one Ethernet network, including broadcast production, ticketing, audio, and video.

“Merging these forces about a third of the way through the process was sort of painful, but, in the end, I’m really pleased that we did it,” said Lydum. “We had to be relevant in this environment.”

As part of the Husky Stadium renovation, Daktronics installed an integrated LED video display on the east side. The main video display, located in the end zone, measures 31 ft. tall x 108 ft. wide and features HD 13-mm line spacing. On the reverse side of the main display is a 24- x 42-ft. secondary display to benefit fans on boats docked on Lake Washington. Husky Stadium also added a number of auxiliary displays, fascia displays, and exterior marquee and street-level displays.

Husky Stadium wasn’t the only UW beneficiary of new video displays. Alaska Airlines Arena, home to the men’s and women’s basketball teams, received an integrated center-hung LED video display. It features two roughly 13.5- x 28-ft. main displays, which are angled slightly down towards the stands, and two 13.5-ft. tall trapezoidal displays that measure 13 ft. wide at the top and taper to 9.5 ft. wide at the bottom.

“We ended up expanding the scope [of the Husky Stadium project] by being creative in how we [procured] all of the systems,” said Jordan. “We ended up bundling packages together [and] renovated the arena for basketball and volleyball with a new center-hung, new fascia displays, new corner displays. We built out a centralized control room on the campus; [now] there’s one control room that handles football, basketball, baseball.”

The centralized control room, located in Alaska Airlines Arena and integrated by Diversified Systems, features a Ross 2M/E, 16-input Carbonite switcher, BlackStorm playout server, and router; Imagine Communications (formerly Harris Broadcast) Selenio X50 frame synchronizer and converter; eight-channel NewTek 3Play replay server; ChyronHego graphics engine; and Daktronics Show Control.

In addition, an Imagine Communications Nexio Infocaster Manager headend connects to approximately 1,000 Infocasters located throughout Husky Stadium, creating the largest IPTV deployment in collegiate athletics.

“The most important thing we learned from my perspective on this was, they agreed,” said Jordan. “We were not constantly going back to the well. There was no well to go back to. We had one shot at doing this. We set the budget, we set the vision. We went to the board of regents and talked to them; they said, Absolutely let’s do it. The budget was set, and we went forward and made it happen.”

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