Big-League AV Migrates to Training Facilities

The vastly increased sophistication of AV systems in major-league venues is extending back to training facilities as well. The newly opened Salt River Fields at Talking Stick is the new spring-training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. The facility, built in Scottsdale AZ, and owned by the Salt River Pima and Maricopa Indian Community, has an 11,000-seat major-league–replica ballpark, 12 practice fields including four minor-league diamonds in a cloverleaf configuration (with home plates at the hub), clubhouses, training facilities, and offices for each team. (It’s also the first Major League Baseball spring-training facility to be built on Indian land.)

The sound system for Salt River Fields is no replica, though. It uses the same types of PA components used in the distributed systems of many sports stadiums built in the past decade and a half. In this case, the distributed speaker clusters are configured using JBL PD5322/95s for long throws and JBL AC28/95s for short throws, mounted on the edges of the upper and middle canopies. Additional speakers are mounted on light poles in the outfield, providing overlapping zone coverage. Lab.gruppen amplifiers power the speakers, BSS Soundweb London units handle speaker management, and live sound is mixed through a Soundcraft GB24 console.

But what makes this level of facility unique is that it’s used by Major League Baseball teams for just two months a year, solely for spring training. The tribes use it the rest of the year, for sports and other community activities. That still makes sense economically, says Ben Cating, senior consultant with Acoustic Dimensions, which designed the sound, video, and signage systems at the complex, for two reasons. First, he says, fans who come for spring training are conditioned to expect high-level AV systems at ballparks. Second, the systems help support the ticket prices that bring the tribe a return on its investment.

“The same level of sound and scoreboard-graphics quality that you have in the new major-league parks is now coming to the training facilities,” says Cating, adding that his company is bidding on the Chicago Cubs’ planned spring-training facility in Mesa AZ, tentatively scheduled for the 2012 season. That facility, 2 miles southwest of the Cubs’ current facility at Hohokam Park and estimated to cost $99 million, will anchor a huge shopping and entertainment mall that the Cubs are financing.

“This is a definite trend that’s taking shape,” he observes.

And just as the latest generation of major-league stadiums is undergoing its first round of upgrades, existing training facilities are also getting technology facelifts. The St. Louis Rams’ training park just got a new HD IPTV system to replace its SD analog video system; a new digital-signage system using X2O’s flagship platform Xpresenter technology, software, and graphics hardware; and a completely new ShoreTel VoIP phone system to replace the old analog system. All told, the new 10-Gb network will comprise 300 data/voice connectivity locations in the 9,000-sq.-ft. campus and in three separate tech closets, including 110 ShoreTel VoIP points, 20 CCTV locations, 20 digital-signage points, and 109 HD IPTV nodes.

As leagues seek to monetize the preseason fan experience — the Cubs regularly draw the biggest spring-training crowds in Arizona, according to WBBM-TV Chicago’s Website — they’re recognizing that the AV systems in their major-league venues, such as distributed sound systems and LED scoreboards, will have to be extended to those preseason arenas as well.