Audio Is a Focus at Houston Dynamo’s New Stadium

The MLS’s Houston Dynamo officially christened their new home, BBVA Compass Field, earlier this month, beating D.C. United 1-0 in the venue’s opening match. The facility boasts a substantial live sound system designed by WJHW and installed by Ford AV’s Dallas division.

The Harman sound system comprises more than 200 JBL loudspeakers, 50 Crown amplifiers, and a BSS Audio distribution and control system. All the speakers have JBL’s WRX weather-protection treatment and are used in the main seating bowl of the stadium. In addition, 113 JBL Control Contractor speakers are installed throughout the facility, powered by 45 Crown CTs-3000-LITE and seven CTs-2000-LITE amplifiers. The system is networked by BSS Audio Soundweb London signal processing, including six BLU-800 devices with CobraNet, three BLU-160 devices, three BLU-120 I/O expansion devices, a BLU-80 device with CobraNet, seven 9015US wall panels, 12 BLUCARD-IN input cards, and 29 BLUCARD-OUT output cards.

The stadium is divided into several audio zones: the main bowl area, the entrances, 34 private suites, the restrooms, and other locations. Additionally, separate dedicated sound systems are installed in the Premium Club, the press room, and the postgame interview room.

The system’s installation was unique in that the PA system’s speakers were installed first, before any other audio components, and were put in place almost as soon as the stadium’s canopy was built.

“It was odd to see the speakers literally hanging in the air before anything else was in there,” recalls Gary White, the WJHW senior associate who supervised the system. “Usually, speakers are the last things to go in.”

The change in procedure, he says, was the need to get components off the natural-grass field as quickly as possible. They also wanted speakers in place early on to help facilitate what White says was a very complex cabling operation. Since the budget did not allow for installation of cable trays, all cabling, including the extensive broadcast cabling, had to be run in conduits around the stadium.

“There might be a cable that has to run from the high end zone to the cable panel for [broadcast] trucks on the opposite side of the stadium. That cable would run from the end point through several comm rooms before it reached the other end,” he explains. “This was what integrators call a ‘pull-challenged’ project. Ford AV came in a lot on weekends and at night when the rest of the construction population was lower in order to pull thousands of feet of stiff broadcast cabling around the venue.”

BBVA Compass Field is the most recent example of major-league soccer’s rapid revitalization of its venue infrastructure. The new $95-million, 22,000-seat stadium, owned like the team itself by live-events producer AEG, brings the total number of renovated or new MLS soccer-specific stadiums to 15, covering most of the league’s 19 teams, according to BleacherReport.com, which states further that the team moved from San Jose in 2005 partly because of Houston’s willingness to help build a home stadium for the team.