Emphasis on In-Game Replays Drives Historic CFL Stadium Upgrade

Less than 150 miles from the U.S.-Canada border lies Regina, SK, the provincial capital, boasting more than 170,000 residents and one of the CFL’s most popular and storied franchises. Since 1936, the Saskatchewan Roughriders have played in Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field, an equally popular and storied venue in need of a major upgrade.

Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field in Saskatchewan will host this month’s Grey Cup.

Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field in Saskatchewan will host this month’s Grey Cup.

Prior to the 2012 CFL season, the Roughriders joined forces with the province on a two-phase $14 million Legacy Project, intended to transform 45,000-seat Mosaic Stadium in time for it to host the 101st Grey Cup on Nov. 24. That two-year transformation targeted the fan experience by enhancing access to in-venue video replays.

“We want people to come to the park and not sit at home and watch it on TV,” says Bill Wright, director of partnerships and game day operations, Saskatchewan Roughriders. “We really put a lot of emphasis on showing replays. We show more replays in our stadium than the broadcaster does by far … between twice as many and three times as many replays as you would get at home. We’re very replay-heavy because we think our fans want the replays and the enjoyment of the atmosphere in the stadium.”

To create a dynamic, replay-driven show, the Saskatchewan Roughriders turned to Tightrope Media Systems’ ZEPLAY. As part of the stadium’s upgrade to HD, the team installed two ZEPLAY replay servers in the revamped control room and an additional ZEPLAY in a mobile-production unit that supports the game presentation.

ZEPLAY offers eight channels (four input, four output) of replay, with the ability to show four angles simultaneously. A built-in multiviewer for monitoring multiple camera angles and tagging options for building and playing back short clip packages during games lend to the ease and speed of the servers.

“The user interface was designed by people who do replays, and so it was built to quickly call up every single angle and see every single angle,” says Steve Israelsky, broadcast solutions lead, Tightrope Media Systems. “It’s the only replay server out there that has an equal number of inputs and outputs; it has four inputs, [and] you have immediate access to all four angles. … With ZEPLAY, they have instant access to every single angle that they’re recording, and that also makes it faster.”

The control room at Mosaic Stadium houses two ZEPLAY replay systems.

The control room at Mosaic Stadium houses two ZEPLAY replay systems.

The ZEPLAY servers in the Mosaic Stadium control room and the third installed in a mobile-production unit provided by Saskatoon, SK-based Bamboo Shoots combine for a total of 12 channels of replay. The OB unit, which supports the control room on game days, also houses a Ross Video Carbonite switcher and nine cameras.

“Essentially, the truck is cutting the show live,” explains Wright, “but all of the cameras and other sources then go through our ZEPLAYs in our control rooms. Our control room on-site is really video playback, highlights, editing, graphics, and running all of the boards … but the live cameras, switching, and director are in the truck.”

In addition to the ZEPLAY servers, the control room features Click Effects CrossFire and Blaze systems, Avid editing equipment, and an OES scoring system. The room feeds the venue’s videoboards, installed by Panasonic prior to the 2012 CFL season: a main videoboard, measuring 59.85 x 28.35 ft.; a secondary videoboard in the shape of Saskatchewan, measuring 21 ft. x 10 ft.; a grandstand display, measuring 37.9 x 25.2 ft.; and two fascia displays, each measuring 75.6 x 4.2 ft.

“We use our screens to show the play and replay, and that gets back to ZEPLAY,” says Wright. “It gives us what we want; we’re a replay kind of stadium.”

The main videoboard was installed in 2012 as part of an $14 million upgrade.

A secondary video board in the trapezoidal shape of Saskatchewan stands alongside the Roughriders’ main video board one end zone.

The Roughriders installed their first ZEPLAY server prior to the 2012 season to support the videoboards and were impressed by the attention given by Tightrope.

“We’re in the heat of the battle, we’re in a live game day, and [if we have] a challenge, we’ve phoned Tightrope, and they’re right on it and helping us fix it. So that certainly gave us comfort to expand to get a second,” says Wright. “We’re a small-market football team; we’re a pretty big deal in the Canadian Football League, but that’s a big fish in a fairly small pond. What we like about Tightrope, and it really speaks to customer service, [is] we’re pretty important to them, so they look after us.”

Adoption of the ZEPLAY servers in professional venues, both large and small, has increased in recent years, including the NCAA’s Florida Gators, Arizona Wildcats, Georgia Tech, and University of Minnesota; the NHL’s Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning; and the NBA’s Utah Jazz.

Interestingly, as the Roughriders have put the final touches on their two-phase Legacy Project, they also are in the initial planning stages for a new stadium. The team hopes to break ground in the spring. Meanwhile, Mosaic Stadium at Taylor Field is ready for the national spotlight when it showcases the crown jewel in the CFL calendar in a few weeks.

“The Grey Cup up here is a real celebration of the league, involving the teams and the fans,” says Wright. “Fans have gone to the Grey Cup game [who] haven’t missed one in 25 years; there’s big parties and big celebrations, and people drive from all over the country … That’s the kind of energy that we tap into.”