Essex On Ice

ESSEX Country, NJ-Although many county governments across the country have restricted budgets when it comes to entertainment systems, they still want the best they can get. Further, they tend not to be expert in these systems but realize that, in order to service a constituency that was raised on television and computers, they had better provide some level of performance in their publicly available services.

Essex County, NJ, as part of an ambitious plan begun a couple of years ago, decided to renovate, build new or upgrade facilities countywide. That includes a new zoo, environmental center, recreation areas for children, and the Codey Arena at South Mountain. The overall intent was to show the value and attractions the county provides even though it lives in the shadow of New York City. If the arena is any indication, they have done just that.

Originally designed to serve as a local ice rink, Codey Arena has since been upgraded to add a second, smaller rink, not to mention installing high-quality theater seating, and purchasing a pro-style floor that can be installed on top of the ice for other events. To top it all off, officials wanted to upgrade the audio, video, and lighting systems so they could attract special events and even concerts to the arena. When Thompson-Foti entered the picture, a Harman sound system, including JBL, Crown, and BSS, had already been specified.

"But we didn't feel the system had been conceived properly," said the firm's Ron Foti. "We convinced the electrical people and the county to switch some components around and to add subwoofers. We were happy they already had the Harman stuff, because we believe in it and use it ourselves."

As a highly reverberant arena, it was important not to overpower the system and to ensure precise speaker direction. The design called for each speaker to have its own amplifier and be separately equalized to optimize performance. At the core is the BSS BLU 16 processor. On the amplifier side, there are 12 Crown CTs 2000 amplifiers; six CTs 1200s and one Crown CTs 4200 amplifier, each having a USP3 programmable input processor.

They are powering a combination of JBL PD and AE loudspeakers. For the larger arena where the NHL's New Jersey Devils practice and where events such as graduations and small concerts take place, there are six PD-5322/43 long throw array speakers with special rigging designed by BL&R rigging. Complementing this array are six PD-5322/64 medium thrown speakers, eight AM-4212/95 down fill array speakers and four ASB-6128V subs.

According to Anthony Molinaro, who promotes the venue for Essex County, the tweaking of the component layout and addition of subwoofers has done the trick. "The audio system sounds tremendous. We have had promoters come in here and listen, look at the gear we have to see if it's professional and they have told us it's second to none for this type of venue. It has gotten us non-ice events that we couldn't have gotten before."

In fact, the upgrade helped the facility land a commercial shoot for the NHL. The audio system was just part of the overall upgrade which also included new theater seats for 2,500 in the big arena and over 500 in the small arena augmenting the new lighting and 50-foot video screen. New restaurants, a pro shop, and party rooms have also drawn attention from promoters and producers.

The flexibility of the system has allowed them to attract attention from all levels of their constituency as well as professional clients. Beyond the high school and college graduations, ad agencies and convention planners are also booking the venue.

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