LAFC Explodes Onto L.A. Sports Scene With Beautiful Banc of California Stadium
Soccer-specific venue features more than 15,000 sq. ft. of LED signage
Compared with Los Angeles-area mainstays like the Dodgers and Lakers, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) is new to the L.A. sports scene. But its new home — Banc of California Stadium — already rivals the region’s storied venues.
After Major League Soccer awarded Los Angeles an expansion franchise in 2014, the club quickly identified the area adjacent to Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Exposition Park as the site of its future soccer-specific home. Banc of California opened its doors on April 29, 2018, for LAFC’s inaugural season. And, for the production team charged with entertaining the nascent fan base, the first season might have been a crazy ride, but it was undoubtedly a success.
“Last season was just a whirlwind,” says Al Raitt, director, match day presentation, LAFC. “It just felt like we were living at the stadium for the most part — and sometimes we were. But the biggest thing for us was just getting it working; we had no time to really think about things: it was just fly as fast as you can go, and see what happens. The great thing about the crew that we have is, we basically had the same crew throughout the year, the same people in the same positions just grinding it out and making sure that each element that we do is perfect.”
When Raitt joined the LAFC family in early 2018, the production infrastructure to support match-day presentation was nearly complete. Early partners on the project included consultants Van Wagner Sports & Entertainment (VWSE) and Idibri, architect Gensler, and systems integrator Diversified. Panasonic Live Events group — now Southpaw Sports & Entertainment — also came aboard in the project’s early stages to outfit the stadium with plenty of LED video-display signage.
Banc of California Stadium features two main videoboards in the bowl: the one at the south end measures approximately 129 x 29 ft.; the one in the northwest corner, approximately 50 x 29 ft. Nine field-level displays of various sizes surround the pitch, and a three-part fascia display stretches nearly 357 ft. along the east side of the stadium. A 38-ft.-long fascia stretches along the west side. Additional displays are mounted on the exterior of the stadium.
LAFC splits its team-created content — live game follow, replays, player features — across the two main videoboards and leverages the field-side displays for sponsor activation. Five Grass Valley cameras capture content from high-mid, reverse-mid, high–end-zone, and two on-field locations. In addition, the team accesses eight cameras from the TV broadcaster (YouTube TV handles home local broadcasts).
“It’s just a really great fan experience, which is what it comes down to in my field of work. How can we elevate the fan experience to something new and exciting?” says Southpaw Sports and Entertainment Project Manager Dagan Pratt. “Through this whole process, it’s just like every other project, where you have struggles but you get through them for a final result that is pretty impressive.”
Powering the more than 15,000 sq. ft. of LED signage adorning Banc of California Stadium is a press-level video-control room, integrated by Diversified and featuring a wealth of gear from Ross Video. At the core of the room is a 3M/E (with 4 MiniME) Carbonite Black Plus production-switcher frame.
Two XPression Tessera graphics engines feed the stadium’s interior video displays, a third handles the exterior displays, and a fourth serves as a backup. An XPression Studio takes care of additional insert graphics. They are tied together through a Dashboard display-control system in order to trigger a full-stadium takeover: for example, if LAFC wins, that can play out over every display with a single button press on DashBoard or the Carbonite production switcher. Rounding out the room are two eight-channel Mira replay servers.
Although installation and commissioning were completed prior to the start of the 2018 season, Ross Video Solution Specialist, Sports and Live Events, Andrew Lahey remains involved with the team at LAFC. “One of the biggest things — and this is with any venue project — is that we do not finish the installation and walk away,” he explains. “It’s a long-term partnership. Not two weeks have gone by that I have not had a conversation with Al to figure out what the plan is moving forward and how we can help them continue to grow with the Ross system.”
As the installation of the videoboards and control-room gear was under way, the LAFC production team joined forces with VWSE Productions to determine just what the LAFC match-day video presentation would look like. The group’s initial philosophy, which has served the entire club well over its inaugural season, is to celebrate the game of soccer and allow the game to speak for itself.
“We’re there to support the match but not overshadow it,” says Raitt. “We want the fans to drive everything, and we’re there to support them. We’re all soccer fans; [we] know the game, want to grow that game in America, and, through match day, we think we can leverage technology to help support the supporter culture in a way that they drive a lot of what we do. It’s a unique take on game days that I don’t think anybody else has really done, especially here in L.A. We went about to set ourselves apart; we’re not trying to be the Lakers, the Clippers, the Kings, the Dodgers. We think we’re delivering a unique experience for soccer fans in this city.”
Although Raitt is responsible for overseeing the match-day presentation team, VWSE Productions is responsible for production of all video content and graphic elements. Mark Austin, manager, broadcast operations, VWSE Productions, plays an integral role, overseeing the Banc of California Stadium’s A/V infrastructure, which — in addition to the videoboards, control-room gear, and audio system — comprises 400+ Panasonic TVs connected via a YinzCam IPTV system.
Looking ahead to the 2019 MLS season, LAFC has several small projects planned around the stadium: adding a lighting truss, improving the IPTV system, and upgrading its existing AT&T fiber connectivity in the hopes of attracting data-driven, live-streamed events like esports tournaments (the stadium hosted a Fortnite tournament last year).
More than anything, LAFC plans to continue cultivating its fanbase. Throughout last season, Raitt met with team supporters to discuss match-day presentation and continues to keep the lines of communication open between his department and the fans to ensure that match-day entertainment keeps fans coming back to Banc of California game after game.
“The fan base is very loyal,” says Austin. “It almost feels like the team has been here a while because of that. The team has a very Los Angeles core to it. It feels local, and it feels real, and I like that. It has been a really nice energy here, and to build a loyal fan base, to drive that experience is really fun.”