Ballarat Sports Events Centre gets the PA it deserves… eventually.
Text:/ Christopher Holder
It’s a brand new A$24m basketball stadium, the envy of any in the world. Why then do we need to get to game day for someone to ask: ‘Do we have enough PA?’.
This is the depressingly predictable predicament that the Ballarat Sports Events Centre found itself at the start of the 2020 season.
Every sports fan sees enough televised basketball to know that professional ball games provide loud and frantic entertainment served with lashings of hotdogs, free merch, and beer. This is Ballarat, and no one expects the Madison Square Garden, but they do expect a modicum of hyped-up hoopla.
Unfortunately the ‘sound system’ delivered by the builders was nothing more than a box-ticking EWIS jobbie.
ROAR OF THE CROWD
Ballarat audiovisual specialists, SLC (Sound & Light Concepts) was called. Help.
The size of the problem was soon obvious. The show court is flanked by two enormous retractable grandstands, accommodating around 1000 patrons each, along with a permanent smaller stand for 300-odd patrons.
During game time, the ambient clamour of fans can easily reach 100dB in the reverberant space.
“So we advised the stadium we need to push 110dB into the crowds if we stand a chance of being heard,” notes SLC boss, Craig Butterworth.
But with the floor rated at a paltry 800kg and the structural beams around 10m+ in the air, there was no easy way of rolling in a serious PA. SLC did what they could but everyone knew a proper permanent PA needed to be installed ASAP.
WHERE & WHAT
Then the Covid lockdowns brought everything to a grinding halt.
Probably just as well, in some ways — at least when it came to the install… which was less than straightforward. A ‘time out’ was just the thing needed to get it right.
Craig Butterworth’s first thought bubble was to install a compact line array with ground stacked subs. Problem: the floor rating would make it impossible to roll in the gear to reach the stratospheric girders; there was nowhere for ground-stacked subs to go; and it was beyond the budget.
After some head scratching, Craig and the client identified structural columns in front of the stands as a possible location to attach some PA. But what sort of PA?
Craig has been around long enough to recall the days of massive full-range cabs that he’d invariably manhandle into sidefill or drumfill roles. Maybe such a loudspeaker could provide the coverage and low-end girth to do the job.
Turns out Turbosound has one such glorious throwback. It’s called the TMS153.
The Turbosound Madrid TMS153 is a brute. It’s a two-way full-range, 1200W (4800W Peak) loudspeaker. Two 15-inch LF devices are joined by a 1.4-inch titanium dome HF unit mounted on a 75° by 50° waveguide. It weighs in at 47kg.
No one at Turbosound envisaged Craig (or anyone else) doing something like this. The TMS153 isn’t designed to be flown or mounted, its sweet spot is to sit, stick and let rip.
Craig had another head-scratching moment. How to get these beasts up in the air and safely mounted to the columns.
The resulting custom mounts are a work of art, and probably deserve a story of their own. Given Craig was waiting on stock of the loudspeakers, he was especially thankful that the Turbosound drawings were spot on and all the mounts fit like a glove.
Putting the loudspeakers in place (with the help of a lightweight 10m single person EWP), took two days of precise and painstaking work.
ANOTHER HEAD SCRATCHER
After all six enclosures were in place (including the two 12+horn Turbosound Madrid MS122M for the permanent grandstand) Craig was faced with another head-scratcher — getting speaker cable from the Lab.gruppen amp to the loudspeakers. Not only that, how to present a similar load to the amp such that one side of the house wouldn’t be noticeably louder than the other.
The answer lie in using extra heavy 6mm2 for the more distant speakers. The cable run was anything but direct given there was no way of running cable under the floor. The cable was sufficiently thick to be a total nightmare to wrangle… behaving like a cranky hosepipe with a serious case of rigor mortis. The 4mm2 speaker cable was more compliant.
The other hero of the install is the Lab.gruppen D80:4L. Capable of delivering a staggering 4 x 2000W into 2Ω, it has more than enough grunt for the job. But its ‘Rational Power Management’ capabilities were just as handy. Craig Butterworth was able to get into the Lab software and allocate less power to the 12+horns, leaving the lion’s share available to the hefty TMS153s.
RIGGED FOR THE GAME
With the PA in place, Craig had to address the final head scratcher: how to connect the gameday announcer’s setup to the sound system.
The announcer’s modest rig comprises a compact mixer and a radio mic. The mixer takes a laptop output for the stingers and other music. The conundrum was how to get audio back to the amp room given there was no way of running cable under the floor to one of the data floor boxes.
The solution was Dante. The floor box, designed to take inputs from the digital scoreboard system, had spare network cable ports, so Craig added a Dante converter to the announcer’s setup.
At the other end, the Lab.gruppen D40:4L amp has integrated 8×8 channels of dual-redundant Dante support.
The two ends shook hands without fuss and proved to be a very neat solution.
We spoke to Mark Valentine, who has been with Ballarat Basketball for over two decades, in various management roles. He’s more keenly aware than most of where they’ve come from and where the new facility takes them — it’s a huge step forward for basketball in the region. He was a little bashful regarding how an actual PA didn’t get delivered in the original build but he’s more than a little relieved that the stadium now has something that delivers when the Miners and Lady Miners basketball teams play in front of their home crowd: “It delivers the levels and the hype we need, and SLC has been excellent in all this. We set them a challenge and they’ve delivered.”
Craig Butterworth is justifiably proud of the rescue mission he and his team have pulled off: “We’re getting the required levels, plus or minus 3dB, to about 95% of the seating. I’m really happy with that. And I’m happy with the loudspeakers, especially the Turbosound TMS153. Not only do we get the coverage but with the double 15s there’s some actual warmth and thump — you can feel the PA… which is what you need to create some excitement.”