Menlo School, located in Atherton, CA, recently added a new athletic center to the school campus. The 54,000 square-foot, bi-level complex features two gymnasiums with complete support facilities, a multi-purpose room and two classrooms.
In keeping with the school’s philosophy of providing the best for their students, the plans included the installation of a top of the line audio and video system to support the many events and activities that the complex would host.
The school administration tapped Kevin Hart Architecture, San Francisco and Vance Brown Builders of Palo Alta, California to design and construct the facility. Leo’s Professional Audio, located in Oakland, California, was brought in to design and implement a complete AV solution for the complex.
Graham Cooper, vice president of the contracting division at Leo’s Professional Audio and Jerry Liles, Leo’s RME, headed up the project with direction from Menlo School’s David McAdoo, director of operations and construction, Andrew Hale, construction analyst. Rocky Giannetta, with Perform Acoustics, assisted the team in the audio system design and commissioning.
Menlo School provides middle school (grades 6-8) and upper school (grades 9-12) education for more than 800 students. Before the addition of the athletic center, both schools shared gym space with nearby Menlo College.
“The new facility provides a lot of flexibility for the athletic department and for the school in general,” Cooper said. “Our goal was to create a digital audio network and production level audio system that could accommodate athletic events and high-end AV presentations very easily.”
The center’s main gym, which provides seating for up to 1,000, can be set up as one NCAA regulation-size basketball court or three full-size basketball courts or four regulation-size volleyball courts.
Cooper had worked with Tannoy loudspeakers for years and was consistently impressed with their superior audio quality and vocal intelligibility, he says. Ultimately he decided to utilize 8 loudspeaker clusters, each consisting of a Tannoy VQ 85DF and VS 15DR, to cover the bleacher and traffic areas. The court itself is covered by two down-firing Tannoy V12HPs.
Given the rectangular nature of the room, the clusters are distributed accordingly. Six cover the home and away bleachers – three on each side – while the two remaining clusters are positioned at the ends of the court. Each of the clusters is attached to the ceiling beams with custom mounting brackets provided by Leo’s Professional Audio.
“The audio quality is terrific and the clusters put the sound exactly where we wanted it,” Cooper adds. “The white cabinets on the white ceiling also fit the aesthetic of the space making the system look as good as it sounds.”
The V12HPs are positioned in the middle of the court, equidistant from the center court line, firing directly on the playing area. They are also mounted to the ceiling beams this time with standard Tannoy mounting brackets.
For larger events the gym is equipped with a portable audio rack loaded with two wireless Sennheiser ew 135 G3 handheld wireless microphone systems, Denon CD and blu-ray players, and provisions for 8 additional wireless microphones along with Rane AM1 and AM2 automixers for analog to digital conversion.
Rane AM1 and AM2 automixers feed the main system by way of custom CAT5 snakes connected to floor or wall input boxes located throughout the room. The input boxes are access points to the MediaMatrix CobraNet network that serves as the backbone of the audio system.
“In addition to CAT5, the boxes offer a variety of input connectors to accommodate iPods, computers, DVD players and other source devices,” Cooper said. “It provides the school with the flexibility to easily provide a digital feed to the main system without using the portable rack.”
Rane RAD devices convert the analog input to digital. The signal is then fed through a network switch to the main equipment rack.
A Kramer RC-8IR 8-button remote control allows source selections and some control of the video switcher from the rack.
“We rack-mounted the key system components in a closet located off the main gymnasium,” Cooper said. “The main equipment rack serves as the central distribution point for a digital audio network that feeds the main gym, the west gym, the distributed sound system and the lobby.”
At the heart of the main equipment rack is a MediaMatrix system that feeds the complex’s Cobranet network.
Digital audio feeds from access points throughout the building are processed through two Rane Mongoose 8 port digital audio networks which send the signal on to a MediaMatrix NION N6 32 × 32 digital signal processor equipped with a NIO-8ml II 8 channel input module and three NIO-80 8-channel output modules. The NION N6 is also connected to the life safety system and provides for system muting.
Eight fully programmable, Media Matrix X Control wall panels are located throughout the complex allowing users to control the Media Matrix system remotely.
A 3U Numark video monitor allows the operator to see what is showing on the various projections screens located throughout the complex from the convenience of the equipment room.
The system is rounded out with three Lab.gruppen C Series C 28:4 four-channel 2800 watt amplifiers and two Lab.gruppen C 20:8 eight-channel 2000 watt amplifiers to power the athletic center’s audio system. The Lab.gruppen amplifiers are controlled and monitored by a Lab.gruppen NLB 60E NomadLink Bridge & Network Controller which allows a laptop computer running Lab.gruppen DeviceControl software to monitor and control the amplifiers from anywhere.
“The Lab.gruppen amps are workhorses,” Cooper said. “This system is going to get a lot of use and it needs to be rock solid. I knew they would do the job and then some.”
The design also provides assisted listening systems for both gymnasiums. Two Listen LT-800 FM transmitters are rack-mounted in the equipment room. Each gym is equipped with 8 LR-300 FM beltpack receivers and a LA-321 8-unit charging case to ensure the systems are ready to go when needed. Additional assistive listening accessories include 6 LA-166 neck loops and 10 LA-164 ear speakers for students and visitors.
The video system for the main gym is as impressive as its audio counterpart. It consists of two Dalite 10-foot by 18-foot rear projection screens and two Panasonic PT-DW6300ULS 6,000 lumen WXGA projectors. A Kramer Electronics switcher/scaler feeds the two projectors either independent streams of video (or the same feed) as well as sending a feed to the lobby video system.
The fully retractable screens are mounted to the ceiling facing the home side bleachers. The projectors are also recessed on the away side of the gym.
Video feeds are also distributed via the CobraNet network. The system utilizes Kramer Electronics twisted pair TP-121 transmitters to convert computer graphics video from various input devices (coming from recessed “pockets” throughout the complex) for distribution across the network. Kramer twisted pair TP-122 receivers convert the signal back for final use.
The second gym, or west gym, seats 175 and can be setup for a basketball game or volleyball nets can be lowered from the ceiling to provide two full-sized volleyball courts.
“In this space we utilized a Renkus Heinz ICL-FR digital steerable column loudspeaker,” Cooper said. “It provides excellent coverage and a high SPL – ideal for this situation.”
The self-powered ICL-FR, equipped with digital beam steering technology, is mounted at the far end of the gym and provides smooth, even coverage to the entire space. Similar to the main gym, a recessed floor pocket loaded with various input options provides easy access to the system.
For bigger events the main gym’s portable audio rack can be used in this space as well.
The upper level is comprised of the Wellness Center – a training space outfitted with cardio vascular and weight training equipment – two classrooms dedicated to health education, and a multipurpose room.
The multipurpose room is used primarily for dance, yoga, pilates, aerobics and self-defense classes. Cooper specified a self-contained sound system featuring eight Tannoy CMS 601 DC BS ceiling speakers and a Tannoy PowerVS 10BP subwoofer to distribute the sound evenly while providing the low end required for dance and aerobic activities.
The amplifiers, mixer and other support gear are rack mounted and located discreetly in a recessed area of the room. The Tannoy ceiling speakers are powered by a Lab.gruppen C Series C 10:4 power amplifier. A Rane CP52S mixer, Denon DRA-397 receiver/preamp, Denon DC-C615 CD player and Samson Fitness HS wireless headset round out the system.
Each of the classrooms are equipped with identical, self-contained AV systems also featuring Tannoy ceiling speakers. Four CMS 601BM ceiling speakers (eight total), powered by an Atlas PA601 60 watt power amplifier, are evenly distributed throughout each classroom. The rooms are also equipped with Panasonic PT-FW300U 3500 lumen, WXGA LCD projectors and 58-inch by 104-inch Da-Lite electric screens. A Smartboard 660 interactive whiteboard completes the setup.
All classroom audio and video sources are routed through and controlled by a SP Controls system which is housed in a wall-mounted SmartBox.
“The school administration wanted visitors to be impressed when the first enter the building lobby,” Cooper said. “As a result we put together a stand-alone AV system that can receive an audio and video feed from the main gymnasium as well as play materials from local sources.”
The lobby system consists of eight Tannoy CMS 601DC self-powered ceiling speakers and a wall-mounted 65-inch LCD monitor. A computer dock and Denon blu-ray player offer additional input options for display purposes.
The distributed audio system provides audio coverage from the main gym system to the Athletic Directors office, coach’s offices, locker rooms, conference room, hallways and bathrooms. Cooper again utilized Tannoy ceiling speakers for the job specifying twenty CMS 501 distributed through the space.
“The entire athletic space is very state-of-the art,” Cooper said. “It was a big project with a big objective – create an environment that was flexible enough to meet the growing and changing needs of Menlo School – and one that I think we accomplished. More importantly the school, parents, teachers and students really like it, which is what matters most.”