MSG Gets an A/V Makeover

It has taken only three years of working around complete basketball and hockey seasons as well as numerous concerts, but Madison Square Garden — and its sound system — has been renovated. The facility was ready for action on Oct. 25.

The A/V systems at the home of the NBA’s Knicks and the NHL’s Rangers needed a refresh. A/V integrator Diversified Systems took on the project in early 2011 to implement a WJHW redesign and install the sound system, broadcast cabling, IPTV system, satellite and RF distribution, TV displays, and other A/V elements for the project referred to as MSG V. The three-phase project, dubbed The Transformation by the venue, took place over the course of mainly summers, with the venue closed for the project.

According to Andy Prager, senior project engineer for Diversified Systems, virtually every A/V element in the house has been or will be updated or replaced. In the sound system, existing Bag End Quartz-1 (4 x 18) court subwoofers and EAW MQV1364 and MQV2364 (three-way) cluster and outfill cabinets, along with Renkus-Heinz TRAP40MH/6 full-range downfills covering the main bowl, are having their drivers changed out, a process expected to be completed in early 2014. JBL Control 29/AV1 speaker cabinets are now installed as delay fills. JBL AM 5212/95 speakers were added as delay rings in the north, south, and west upper seating, to cover the north and south seating bridges (added just this year), where the outfills don’t reach. A new Yamaha M7CL-48 console serves as front-of-house mixer for live sound.

During basketball and hockey play prior to the current seasons and between work phases, Diversified kept the existing sound system on, using the existing QSC amplifiers and BSS Soundweb processing. As of the current seasons, these have been replaced with new BSS London processors and Crown CTS amplifiers. Besides the hockey and basketball programmed-function scenes, the London processing offers a new feature: Concert Mode, which integrates the new delay speakers with touring systems for music and other events. These are timed to the concert’s line arrays on the west end of the arena.

“It was a complex, challenging project because it was so comprehensive and [because] the Garden cannot be closed more than four months at a time,” Prager explains. In the first summer alone, Diversified pulled and terminated more than 2 million ft. of cable, mounted about 1,000 large LED screens, installed an IPTV and RF headend, installed a broadcast-truck dock cable plant, and installed more than 100 power amplifiers and more than 1,000 speakers.

It was also tricky to choose which system elements would be changed during which phase, so as to have all systems able to perform for each season of basketball and hockey. “With phases stopping and starting with long periods in between, we had to make sure that wiring we were ripping out one month wasn’t going to be necessary for games the next month, before the replacement wiring was in place,” he says. “And also, the new cabling installed had to be protected and out of harm’s way during the construction for each phase.”

Madison Square Garden is one of number of high-profile sports venues enjoying A/V upgrades this year. In addition to sound and video, MSG also got new luxury suites, clubs, and hospitality areas and those one-of-a-kind seating bridges, all part of an industry-wide strategy to get more fans in the stands.