Youngstown State Christens Don Constantini Multimedia Center on Cusp of 2020
The project has greatly expanded the dimensions of Stambaugh Stadium
As many put a bow on their 2019 activities and tie up loose ends before the conclusion of the year, Youngstown State University (YSU) is doing the exact opposite. Back in September, the athletic department opened the doors to the $1-million Don Constantini Multimedia Center that will now be the newest anchor of video productions inside of the home of the university’s football team, Stambaugh Stadium.
“For the last four or five years, we were working off of white folding tables in a storage room of the stadium. It wasn’t very conducive because there was no heat or air conditioning and during the game, [staff] would come in mid-broadcast to get things out of the room,” says Kevin Davis, specialist, video production, Youngstown State University. “Now, we have a control room, home and visiting radio booths, a press box, [space for] our TV and public address announcers, and instant replay.”
Laying the Brick & Mortar: The On-Campus Construction Process
After 1966 graduate Don Constantini footed the bill with a charitable donation, Youngstown State put on its hard hat and went to work by partnering with a local construction company. After closing the entire east side seating area of the edifice to make room for the demolition of the concourse, the process hit a bit of a snafu in the middle of 2018.
“As construction moved forward, they realized that some of the foundation wasn’t going to hold the weight of the structure,” says Trevor Parks, director, athletics communications, Youngstown State University. “They had to spend some time coming up with an idea to make it work, but once they got that idea, the process started to speed up.”
As the calendar turned over to this year, a diverse team of academic administrators, athletic department officials, and other staffers at YSU worked closely with the construction company to develop the project at a quicker speed.
“The YSU athletic staff, the foreman, the architect, electricians, some of the deciding people, and university IT met every Wednesday. The subcontractors were also at as many meetings as they could,” says Parks. “We figured out what to do with the foundation and it really started to go full bore by the middle of April.”
When the structure was put into place by the summer months, it was a mad dash to the finish line to have everything in place before the first football game vs. Howard University on Sept. 7.
“When we received the furniture for the control room, Kevin, the students, and I had to carry that and a bunch of the equipment up the steps because the elevator didn’t get approved until the week of the game. Our electrician said he went up and down the steps 60 or so times in one day,” he continues. “You couldn’t come in here without bumping into somebody because there were so many people working their tails off to try to get it done.”
The Finer Details: NewTek Powers Control Room Productions
With the dust settled, Parks and company have become acquainted with the equipment and have custom-fitted each device to their liking inside of their new home. That much-needed time to work with the equipment is the consequence of YSU’s pre-wiring strategy.
“It’s nice that the only thing we really need to set up prior to the game is the talent audio and whatnot since we use that for multiple sports,” says Parks. “Then, it’s just taking the cameras out to their locations and plugging in the eight AJA FiDO single-mode ST converters to make sure that everything works on game days.”
With a wide network of fiber in place, their compact list of equipment can be easily accessed from inside of their control room. In the space, an eight-channel NewTek TriCaster 8000 Advanced Edition 2 production switcher and an AJA KUMO 64×64 video router sit at the helm. On the playing field, five Sony HXR-NX5 and two Marshall CV506 POVs capture the action. Whether within or away from the central hub, all employees are kept on the same page via ClearCom’s HelixNet intercom system.
On the other end of the control room, an Allen & Heath SQ-5 console with Dante, an eight-channel NewTek 3Play 4800, and an AJT Systems LiveBox GFX LE respectively control audio, replay, and graphics.
An Overarching Reach: Space Spurs Plans for Centralization
The litany of equipment will be truly put to the test over time. In the future, the Don Constantini Multimedia Center will be utilized in further on a grander scale. Although football is the only sport being produced out of that control room, the YSU staff have bigger plans in the coming years that will make the area the nucleus of the school’s video productions. This, of course, will prevent the crew from working in less than ideal conditions.
“We are in the process of working to get it linked to, at least, Beeghly Center which is where basketball and volleyball are produced. As soon as we can get a few things set up, we will be good to control [those games] out of the new control room,” says Davis. “Over there, we have another seven ft. by seven ft. storage room that we’re producing games out of that gets really hot since there are four computers.”
With a total of four on-campus athletics facilities (men’s and women’s soccer’s Farmers National Bank Field and softball’s Covelli Sports Complex alongside Beeghly Center and Stambaugh Stadium), Davis recognizes that centralizing their production workflows is “one of the purposes of the building.
A Touch of Education: Multimedia Center Includes a 50-Student Classroom
Like many universities around the country, the ultimate mission is to teach and cultivate the next generation of audio and visual professionals. Although the building has ample room for hands-on practice, the structure is also outfitted with an opportunity to learn from textbooks in a conducive setting.
“It’s a fifty-person classroom that has six TVs,” says Davis. “It’s a Cisco WebEx classroom, so [lessons] can be done remotely from basically anywhere. It’s mainly going to be for sports production and our telecommunications department. It’s a newer program here at YSU that we’re slowly growing up, but it’s basically doubled our department.”
With a two-pronged attack in place, Davis and Parks are poised to nurture interested students into versatile workers with a healthy balance between spoken knowledge and fieldwork.
“There’s two full-time faculty members and a couple of part-time faculties, myself included, that teach field production and sports production on that side,” he continues. “Trevor and the sports information staff are also over here, so during the week, their offices are in the booths that we use for radio. The students are able to walk out of the classroom if they need to get interviews for a class project with a player or something and be able to talk with the sports information staff right there, and not have to hunt him down. Even on the education side, a lot of the students are really liking the ease of access that they have to sports information.”
The Next Chapter: Youngstown Sits at the Dawn of a New Production Age
Through the persistent work of the athletic program and an incalculable number of supporters at the university, the working environment and culture of the YSU program has changed in a positive way. The quality of productions is improving, but more importantly, it’s a step in the right direction for students filling four years of hard work in Youngstown, OH.
“Without the students, we can’t continue to do what we’re doing,” says Parks. “Our broadcasts are very solid in the Missouri Valley and Horizon League. A lot of that is because of the work that these students put in. We give them guidance, but we also throw them right in there and say, ‘Hey, it’s all you.’”
The Youngstown State track record is proven as well with a variety of former students being involved in professional organizations like ESPN in Bristol, CT and Charlotte, Fox Sports Ohio, and NFL Network.
“It’s all about recruiting when I tell them and show them what we have,” he continues. “I feel like a coach sometimes because I show what we can offer and what we can do for them and also talk about where some of our past students are now.”
And while this new multimedia center will forge careers for young adults, the foundation of this project is one that was laid down by individuals that have spent years working at the university.
“We actually named our control room after a gentleman named Jim Dolan. He came up with cameras and gear for us to use in our infancy for sports broadcasting,” concludes Parks. “A lot of the other rooms are named for benefactors, but we wrote a letter to have the control room named in Jim’s honor, and President [Jim] Tressel was behind it 100% once he had heard what Jim had done for us, and our board of trustees approved it. We were happy to name the control room after Jim for what he did, because without some of that stuff back in the day, who knows what we’d be doing now.