True West

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Uniform sound for foreground/background music and speech intelligibility was an absolute requirement. The Atlas Sound system includes 22 AH5040CDs in the main grand concourse, with concealed AF140s about 80 feet above the floor.CHICAGO, IL--Chicago's venerable McCormick Place has a new kid on campus, one that is aimed at invigorating the city's status on the convention center map. The new McCormick Place West Building features 250,000 square feet of meeting space, including 61 meeting rooms and a 100,000-square-foot configurable ballroom--one of the world's largest.

The Chicago-based Interstate Electronics Company was the project's AV systems integrator and a key member of the project's design/build team. Interstate has completed many large venue AV projects in Chicago and other Midwestern cities over the past 40 years, but the McCormick West project was the first to be structured entirely as design/build project from its inception.
According to Mark Woltkamp, vice president of engineering for Interstate, "The McCormick Place West complex is unique in sheer scope, requiring more than four years to design and construct. You can't go more than 200 feet inside the building without experiencing an architectural change; from the central concourse with a 75-foot ceiling you move to a cross corridor with 30-foot ceilings."

The technology in the building includes Atlas Sound loudspeakers, Innovative Electronic Designs (IED) Titan audio control and combining systems, Crestron control systems, and QSC RAVE CobraNet audio transport systems. "We partnered with Atlas Sound and IED at the beginning of the project, and this early involvement greatly contributed to the overall success of the project," Woltkamp said. "Atlas gave Interstate a commitment for on-time deliveries and a fixed cost structure which covered the entire construction period. They also inventoried product at their site and delivered it on an as-needed basis to maintain the construction schedule."

Uniform sound for foreground/background music and speech intelligibility was an absolute requirement. The Atlas system includes 22 AH5040CDs in the main grand concourse, with concealed AF140s about 80 feet above the floor. Some 929 GD87s serve meeting rooms and the general concourse, while 12CXT60 with Q Series enclosures are installed in high-ceiling pre-function area around ballrooms to ensure consistent sound with the ballrooms. The grand ballroom is served by 44 concealed SM12CXT-Bs with 102 used in the exhibition hall where they are exposed. A junior ballroom uses 8CXT60s.

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The new McCormick Place West Building features 250,000 square feet of meeting space, including 61 meeting rooms and a 100,000-square-foot configurable ballroom.
"By installation time, Atlas had generated a tighter pattern for the long-throw speaker for the grand concourse, and they allowed us to change, giving us more control in that area," he said. "Sticking with one product line, Atlas, was key. We used six model numbers throughout and kept a similar tone so it doesn't feel and sound different walking from one space to another."

Contractors often come back to vendors after the initial quote on large projects asking for discounts. IEC was an exception, said Ken Peck, Atlas Sound Midwestern regional sales manager. "We put our best foot forward on the quote, and Woltkamp lived up to his part. He did a great job of laying this out, supervising it in such a way that IEC was able to make money. He chose us because he wanted uniformity in sound and we've been able to offer that. The sonic signature is a result of the concentrated engineering effort, hence a benefit to the customer."

The IED Titan system facilitates the building's room combining, audio routing, and room equalization. Interstate and IED created a graphical user-interface which specifically addressed the unique requirements of the new building. "The primary challenge was achieving the appropriate balance between ease of use and system flexibility for the client," Woltkamp said. "It's a completely custom-programmed system."


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"Put together a team you trust. Watch the details from the beginning, supply chain, cash flow, suppliers," said Mark Woltkamp. "The end of the project sneaks up quickly. Be ethical; make deals with suppliers and stick to them. It pays in the end, strengthens your relationships, earns respect, and carries onto the next big project. When you're in a hurry, the suppliers will be more willing to accommodate you."

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