Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk

Menlo School 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 very best for its students, the plans included the installation of an AV system to support the many events and activities that the complex hosts.

Menlo School’s new 54,000-square-foot athletic complex features two gymnasiums with complete support facilities, a multi-purpose room, and two classrooms.

The school administration tapped Kevin Hart Architecture of San Francisco and Vance Brown Builders of Palo Alto, California to design and construct the facility. Leo's Professional Audio, located in Oakland, CA, 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 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 design and production level audio system that could accommodate athletic events and high-end AV presentations very easily."

The Main Gymnasium
The center's main gym, which provides seating for up to 1,000, can be set up as one NCAA regulation-size basketball court, 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. Ultimately he decided to utilize eight 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 added. "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.


Eight loudspeaker clusters, each consisting of a Tannoy VQ 85DF and VS 15DR, cover the bleacher and traffic areas. The court is covered by two down-firing Tannoy V12HPs.
Rane AM1 and AM2 auto-mixers feed the main system by way of custom Cat-5 snakes connected to floor or wall input boxes located throughout the room. The input boxes are access points to a Peavey MediaMatrix CobraNet network that serves as the backbone of the audio system. "In addition to Cat-5, the boxes offer a variety of input connectors to accommodate iPods, computers, DVD players, and other source devices," added Cooper. "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 eight-button remote control allows source selections and some control of the video switcher from the rack.

The system is rounded out with three Lab.gruppen C 28:4 four-channel, 2,800-watt amplifiers and two Lab.gruppen C 20:8 eight-channel, 2,000-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 and 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 added. "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 assistive listening systems for both gymnasiums. Two Listen Technologies LT-800 FM transmitters are rack-mounted in the equipment room. Each gym is equipped with eight 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 six LA-166 neck loops and 10 LA-164 ear speakers for students and visitors.

Video System
The video system for the main gym is as impressive as its audio counterpart. It consists of two Da-Lite 10-foot x 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 Cat-5 extenders. 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 set up 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 noted. "It provides excellent coverage and a high SPL—ideal for this situation."

For the Wellness Center, Cooper specified a self-contained sound system featuring eight Tannoy CMS 801 DC BM ceiling speakers and a Tannoy Power VS-10BP subwoofer to distribute the sound evenly while providing the low end required for dance and aerobic activities. The Tannoy ceiling speakers are powered by a Lab.gruppen 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 powered by Stewart Audio CVA50 50 watt power amplifiers. The rooms are also equipped with Canon SX80MKII 3,000-lumen, WXGA LCD projectors and 58-inch x 104-inch Da-Lite electric screens. A SMART Technologies 680 interactive whiteboard completes the setup. All classroom audio and video sources are routed through and controlled by a SP Controls.

The Rest Of The Story
"The school administration wanted visitors to be impressed when they first enter the building lobby," Cooper said. "As a result we put together a standalone 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 601 DC-PI 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, and bathrooms. Cooper again utilized Tannoy ceiling speakers for the job specifying 20 CMS 501 PI distributed through the space.