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Stadium AV: Designing Flexible, Expandable Systems

The “fan experience,” is a phrase that’s been evolving for quite some time. Today’s fan experiences place new and increasing demands on stadium infrastructures, and those in charge of designing new stadiums or renovating existing spaces must do their homework beyond what was expected just a few years ago. Consider ultra-high density Wi-Fi, which helps fans stay connected for sharing and streaming the experience to the world outside the stadium, and watching highlights from other stadiums. Also, the number, quality and size of LED displays throughout a stadium supporting the local experience have grown exponentially, providing real opportunities for engagement and sponsorships. In addition to these considerations, facility designs need to account for future expansion in order to have the right infrastructure in place to support growth and utilize the latest AV technology.

Existing stadiums are also looking to provide broader coverage throughout the venue. This could include a new mezzanine section or enhanced coverage across the arena, concourse, and even the locker rooms to enhance connectivity and the ease of plug-in between the stadium and the truck dock.

Today, Tomorrow, and Yesterday
The broadcast side of a stadium often crosses over or supports this in-house experience, demanding stringent requirements of a stadium’s infrastructure. Today, most drop points in a stadium need to have some assortment of cabling, including fiber/hybrid, category, coax, and a few analog audio ties.

No two customers are the same. To accommodate the broadcast needs of arenas, including audio and video feeds for TV and radio stations, customizable panels can be adapted to the specific requirements of that venue. The benefit of using a custom panel is the layout is not fixed to eight connectors across, or male to female, etc. The user can modify this design to many potential configurations, as needed. Designs can vary from just a single input or output in 1RU to much larger mixes in 2 or 3RUs, fully loaded, which would be six or eight across. Additionally, users can opt for a panel with a built-in splice enclosure box to heed the benefit of even greater flexibility and expandability because these types of units are modular.

Very often a customer seeking a cable from the backend to a custom connection would be best served through the use of a panel with adaptable pigtail cabling because it is easier to modify than a fixed cable assembly panel. An AV technician can cut off the nylon connectors on the pigtails and attach their own connectors. The fiber optic lines can also be modified in the field if needed by fusion splicing the appropriate connectors (ST, SC, or LC) to adapt to equipment or design. If a customer is connecting a long run, they can come in on the back end and fusion splice it at that point.

Not Your Father’s Coax
While fiber optic technology can clearly provide a solution in many situations, the requirement for electrical-to-optical and reverse signal conversions can make this expensive and add potential points of failure.

Integrators should look for coaxial cable with advanced connector technology that enables transmission of UHD 12G signals up to 100 meters or more. Additionally, the most advanced BNC connectors and 12G-capable patchbays should be used to take full advantage of such high-performance cables.