Sound Off - AvNetwork.com

Sound Off

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Because of Wrigley Park's landmark status, the process of installing a new sound system that features Community loudspeakers has been an arduous one.CHICAGO, IL-Built in 1914, Chicago's Wrigley Field is one of Major League Baseball's legendary landmarks. Second only to Boston's Fenway Park, Wrigley Field will host its 94th season in 2007, and is as beloved by Chicagoans as the Cubs who play there.

Having long ago been designated one of the city's historical landmarks, improvements to the park are carefully evaluated and overseen, not only by the city's historical society, but by fans and the public. The installation of lighting in 1988 to allow for night games was preceded by several decades of controversy. And the field's original scoreboard, with per-inning and pitch scores changed by hand, has been untouched by progress (or pitches) since its construction in 1937.

Not surprisingly, the project to upgrade the park's audio system was also subject to the limitations of historic preservation. "Because of the park's landmark status, any proposed changes have to run through a number of lengthy and complex approval processes," explained Kevin Tucker of Chicago-based Advent Systems, the company behind the ongoing phased audio systems upgrade project. "Any plans that will materially affect or alter the visual status of the park are extremely difficult to implement. In fact, there are some old multi-cell horns by the scoreboard dating back to the 1930s, and we are not permitted to remove them."

Faced with the challenge of striking a balance between preservation and progress, Tucker worked with Jack McCallum, senior consultant at Wrightson Johnson Haddon & Williams (WJHW), to come up with a system that could deliver intelligibility to the substantial seating area while creating a minimal visual footprint.

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The new audio system, which is being implemented in phases, is based around Community R-series loudspeakers. "We completed Phase One in February of 2006," said Tucker, "concurrent with the expansion of the bleachers and the addition of a restaurant in the enclosed Batter's Eye Lounge."

Working around the additional constraints of the inevitable Chicago winter, Tucker has recently completed Phase Two of the sound system, comprising 27 Community R.5-HP loudspeakers to cover the lower seating around the bowl. Seven R.5-99 speakers provide additional coverage to the side areas. "The R-Series provides excellent coverage and intelligibility," Tucker observed. "And it's probably the only speaker out there that can withstand the brutal Chicago weather. All my experience with Community speakers has been really great."

The system is powered by Crown CTS amplification, with signal processing handled by BSS London units. According to Tucker, the new sound system is the park's first foray into digital signal processing. "The last system had been installed around the end of the 1980s, just before DSP-based systems began to catch on. It was one of the last of the big stadium analog systems." The system's different phases operate independently, with its own amps and DSP, but are tied together via fiber optic connection.

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