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AVI Systems Revamps Fargodome Audio

Sports fans at the Fargodome, an indoor athletic stadium and concert venue, enjoy the clarity of the upgraded audio system, which was designed and installed by AVI Systems.
Sports fans at the Fargodome, an indoor athletic stadium and concert venue, enjoy the clarity of the upgraded audio system, which was designed and installed by AVI Systems. (Image credit: Bose)

The Fargodome, home of the North Dakota State Bison football team, recently received an audio system revamp after components in its installed equipment started failing with increasing frequency. Management initially called on AVI Systems to replace the amplifiers, which were beginning to have reliability issues, and numerous blown transducers in the P.A. system. The venue already had a relationship with the integrator, which had installed the existing audio system and maintains offices in the state as part of its nationwide network.

The Fargodome is indoor athletic stadium is owned and managed by the city of Fargo and built on the North Dakota State University (NDSU) campus. Covering approximately 466,000 square feet, the Fargodome seats 18,700 for football and can accommodate as many as 25,000 for arena concerts. The facility also hosts corporate events, trade shows, graduations, weddings and various sporting events. Its audio system had been in place since 2006.

“The improvements were driven by feedback from the fans at the football games and other events,” said Trent Slyter, area vice president at AVI’s office in Bismarck, ND. “The public seemed to have the opinion that the sound quality at the Fargodome needed improvement.”

[Stadium and Arena Sound]

AVI engineering supervisor John Van Stipdonk, who was tapped for his expertise with large sports and performance venues, soon encountered a problem. When he called the original loudspeaker manufacturer for replacement transducers, he learned that they only had 38 in the country and weren’t expecting to get more for six or eight months. He wondered, “What if we replaced the system?”

With the Fargodome’s busy event schedule demanding a quick turnaround and the first football game of the season only a few weeks away, AVI faced another hurdle. The system they ultimately picked would not only have to meet their technical specs, it would also have to be available on very short notice. “The only company that could guarantee it could get the right system to us in time was Bose Professional,” said Van Stipdonk.

It was the second time in just a few months that Bose was able to help him out in a time crunch, he reported. “When it comes to customer service and reliability, I tend to stay with the people who have taken care of me.”

Van Stipdonk submitted drawings of the venue to Bose Professional; the manufacturer quickly modeled the space and sent back the performance characteristics of the recommended Bose ArenaMatch outdoor loudspeaker system. The system comprises 15 AM20/100 (dispersion of 20° vertical by 100° horizontal), 67 AM40/80, and 16 AM10/60 speaker array modules. Nearly three dozen Bose PowerMatch PM8500N and PM4500N configurable power amplifiers with integrated networking drive the system, which also incorporates six Bose RoomMatch Dual-18 VLF-Subs.

AVI Systems worked with Bose to produce an audio solution that would be clear, articulate, and smooth in the face of the Fargodome’s highly reflective audio environment.

AVI Systems worked with Bose to produce an audio solution that would be clear, articulate, and smooth in the face of the Fargodome’s highly reflective audio environment. (Image credit: Bose)

“Because of the highly reflective nature of the performance venue, great care, thought, and planning went into producing a solution that would be clear, articulate, and smooth,” Slyter said. “When commissioning and tuning the system, care had to be taken so that all the various types of signals would be reproduced faithfully regardless of the source or location. The goal was even coverage throughout the facility.”

The previously installed rig was “configured in a way that was less streamlined. They had a few clusters and a delay rig spread throughout the venue,” said Van Stripdonk. “It’s now more centralized than it was, and after we installed it, the system actually performed better than the model predicted. We were pleasantly surprised by the coverage patterns and SPL. I didn’t get to hear the previous system because it wasn’t functioning, but the response from ownership is that intelligibility has increased immensely with the Bose system.”

“There were many challenges with the old system,” added Matt Costello, technical services manager and operator of the system at the Fargodome. “The audio quality is so much better with this system. No complaints so far—nothing but praise that it sounds better.”

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Ever mindful of their client’s budget, AVI Systems retained as much as possible of the previously installed equipment and infrastructure, including the Allen & Heath dLive console and Cat 5 and fiber cabling. “We worked with the ownership to minimize cost and use what was still working in the building to save them money,” said Van Stipdonk.

A Dante network interface card in the existing processing system failed after the installation. As a result, “we’ve been slowly bypassing some of the old system, switching over and using the Dante feature inside the Bose PowerMatch amps,” added Van Stipdonk. “It’s actually becoming more and more reliable, day by day.”

No doubt that’s music to the client’s ears. “One of the selling points for the client was that the standard warranty for Bose Professional is five years. They don’t have a repair facility—they just ship you a new product,” he concluded. “That was another big factor in them choosing the Bose system. Knowing that they would be here to stand behind their product puts a lot of people’s minds at ease.”