School Auditorium Upgraded to Double As Cultural Center

School Auditorium Upgraded to Double As Cultural Center

For many towns and cities around the country, the high school auditorium is more than just a facility for the school district—it’s the cultural center for the arts in the community. Such is the case with the historic Knowlton Auditorium in Austin, MN.

Part of the Austin School District, it was built as a community asset in 1937. The auditorium is connected to the high school’s gymnasium. When built, the auditorium was separated from the gym by a removable wall, so both spaces could be used for major events like graduation. A remodeling project completed in 1994 replaced the removable wall, with a less expensive fixed wall which reduced the usability of the space. In early 2015, the school district started a renovation project for the auditorium and gymnasium to upgrade the audio and video technology, improve the lighting, provide the space with an architectural “facelift,” and replace that wall with a new fire-rated partition.

The Austin, MN School District’s Knowlton Auditorium was upgraded to attract outside performances and touring groups to the community. When discussing the objectives for the recent renovation, Matt Miller, director of facility services for Austin School District, stated, “We needed to upgrade the technology in the auditorium to continue to attract outside performances and touring groups to the community. The auditorium is used for local theater productions, Austin Arts programs, and hosts the annual stockholders meeting for Hormel Corporation, which is headquartered here. We also wanted the AV systems to be easy to operate and reliable. The previous technology required an AV specialist to run it, and we wanted to get away from that.”

The school district contracted with Dave Bridges at the architectural company ATS&R in Minneapolis to design the new technology systems and with Alpha Video and Audio in Eden Prairie, MN to integrate and install the systems. To successfully integrate the technology in the auditorium, Alpha Video needed expertise in both parts of its corporate name—audio and video.

The audio systems were the highest priority, and Electro-Voice pro audio speakers are installed throughout the auditorium. Left, right, and center speaker clusters are ceiling-mounted in front of the stage proscenium with the center cluster containing low-frequency subwoofers. Fill speakers are installed under the stage to fill the first six rows and under-the-balcony and above-the-balcony speakers are installed to provide full sound throughout the auditorium.

Two Chief Manufacturing roll-top desks are installed at the back of the main floor to hold the mixing systems. Audio is mixed using a Roland M-480 digital audio mixing console. Electro-Voice wireless handheld microphones and Electro-Voice headworn microphones are available for the performers. New Electro-Voice speakers are also installed in the gymnasium.

New projectors are installed in both the auditorium and gymnasium. A Christie Digital WUXGA, 3-DLP, 12,000-lumen projector is in the auditorium; the projector for the gym is a Vivitek 1080P, 12,000-lumen projector installed in a ceiling-mounted Draper scissor-lift, so it can be protected during sporting events.

Two 55-inch LED confidence monitors are installed on the balcony and two 80-inch displays were added to the lobby area to provide information to visitors and event attendees. Three displays are installed under the balcony to improve the sight lines.

The other Chief roll-top desk houses a Broadcast Pix Flint Integrated Production switcher, which switches video feeds from three Panasonic HD PTZ camera systems installed strategically throughout the auditorium.

To improve the ease of use, a Crestron control system is installed, which can be accessed by a 10.1-inch touchscreen control panel installed next to the mixing consoles, or by two iPads with Crestron apps.

Commenting on working with Alpha Video, Matt Miller focused on the service they received from Jake Remus, who was Alpha Video’s project manager for the installation. “I’ve been impressed with Jake Remus,” said Miller. “He did an excellent job in catering to the needs of our non-technical users and communicating with us to keep everything on schedule. And, since the project was completed, he has been very helpful to answer any technical-related questions or integration questions. I’ve been really impressed with his customer service.”

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