Level 3 Helps Make New KFC Yum! Center State-of-the-Art

When the new KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville, KY, opens in October, it will realize Kentucky State Fair Board Chairman Jim Host’s dream of a state-of-the-art facility. That goal is enabled in no small part by the installation of VenueNet+ from Level 3.

The new arena will be the home of the University of Louisville Cardinals men’s and women’s basketball teams and will also host concerts and conventions. Its location on the banks of the Ohio River created some challenges, according to Alicia Dunlap, director of information technology for the Kentucky State Fair Board, which operates the center. Sitting in “beautiful downtown Louisville,” she says, “the arena has no direct view of the southern sky nor parking for satellite trucks.”

The Kentucky State Fair Board approached Level 3 about VenueNet because, “when we researched it, we were really impressed,” says Dunlap. “They started to tell us about VenueNet+, and it sounded even better.”

The decision to go with VenueNet+ presented some challenges. It “is the infrastructure we have in the top 100 sports venues in the U.S.,” says Mark Taylor, head of media products and strategy for Level3. A second-tier solution is more common for college locations. “The difference is economical,” he explains. “In the pro venues, there are a lot of games, and it justifies the infrastructure.”

Host’s drive to create a state-of-the-art facility and the fact that there was no POP (point of presence) in Louisville or Indiana posed “a technological stumbling block that we had to get past,” says Dunlap.

The solution was a revenue-sharing agreement between Level 3 and the KFC Yum! Center that “helped us connect fiber to the new facility,” says Taylor, and created a POP in Louisville. “We’re installing the exact same capabilities as we install in the top 100 venues in the U.S., ” he adds.

Says Dunlap, “We’ll have it available for other events in Louisville, like the Kentucky Derby — a little horse race that we have.”

The VenueNet+ service, part of Level 3’s Vyvx video-backhaul offering, provides “a physical handoff to the broadcaster,” Taylor says. “We can take the handoff at full-HD capability, right up to 1080p, a 3-Gb interface. We now have JPEG 2000 codecs built into the equipment we’re providing,” he adds. “That’s a first for us. We’re now providing high-speed Internet access off the same box.

“Interestingly,” he continues, “that has caused the most excitement from broadcasters as they are starting to think about how they might change their workflow with a high-speed data connection.” In the past, it was a struggle to get a 512k DSL line to a game, he says, adding, “We’re now giving them a 50- to 100-Mbps connection. That’s a big, big change.”

Level 3 is also providing digital voice service in the arena, Taylor says, “so they can just plug headsets in, and it’s connected to Level 3’s IP voice network.”

The KFC Yum! Center has been fully wired with fiber. “The new equipment allows both us and our customers a more comprehensive suite of management services,” he says. “It’s more comprehensive, more secure, highly manageable and offers more capabilities than in the past.”

Host’s dream of a state-of-the-art building will officially open its doors on Oct. 10 (10/10/10). A concert by the band The Eagles premieres the facility a few days later. In addition to being the home of the Louisville Cardinals basketball teams, the venue has already been booked for several conventions in conjunction with the Kentucky International Convention Center, which is within a block of the arena and is also operated by the Kentucky State Fair Board.

The 22,000-seat arena will also host the 2012 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship and the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I Regionals.