By Andrew King | As seen in the August 2014 issue of Professional Sound magazine

Just a few years ago, the future of Frank Clair Stadium at Lansdowne Park – one of Ottawa’s longest-standing and cherished landmarks – was uncertain; however, thanks in large part to the efforts of a consortium of investors known as Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, Ottawa City Council approved a redevelopment plan to renovate the stadium and update several other areas of the park. This summer, the revamped facility – including an all-new audio system installed by Solotech – will host home games for the CFL’s Ottawa RedBlacks and NASL’s Ottawa Fur y Football Club and, subsequently, droves of frenzied hometown fans.

A Rich History

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Renovated North Grandstands at TD Place Stadium.

There’s little doubt that the site most Canadians would first associate with our nation’s capital of Ottawa is Parliament Hill. Built in 1859, the longtime home of the Parliament of Canada greets approximately 3 million visitors each year and is deeply rooted in many fond memories of citizens of the capital.

But just a few kilometers south of the Hill, right by the bank of the Rideau Canal, sits another site rich in history and likely the root of its own share of cherished memories held by locals and tourists alike.

Lansdowne Park is a 40-acre sporting and exhibition facility owned by the city that was first established in 1868. The site was the longtime home of the annual Central Canada Exhibition – from 1888 through to 2010 – and, throughout the years, has played host to a wide variety of concerts, sporting events, community programming, and much more.

There was also a playing field on the grounds first cleared during the 1870s and used for equestrian, lacrosse, and other team sports. In 1908, the first permanent grandstand was erected on the north side of the surface that essentially made the field into a stadium. A smaller grandstand on the south side followed, constructed during the 1920s.

Decades later, in 1960, the south stands were rebuilt and then a second level was added during the ‘70s. Following suit, the north side seating was demolished in 1967 and in its place went a new set of stands with a hockey arena built underneath.

Over the years, the stadium at Lansdowne Park was home to professional and amateur sporting clubs like: the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders (1908-96) and, later, Renegades (2002-05); QJFL’s Ottawa Junior Riders; minor league baseball’s Ottawa Giants (1951) and Athletics (1952-54); as well as various teams representing the Carleton University Ravens and University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.

It was an official venue of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, hosted five CFL Grey Cup matches, and dozens of other special events. In 1998, the stadium that had simply shared its moniker with the site it sat on was renamed Frank Clair Stadium in honour of the coach and general manager of the Ottawa Rough Riders during the 1960s and ‘70s. And in 2005, Frank Clair Stadium played host to rock royalty when The Rolling Stones performed for over 40,000 fans.

Basically, when it came to sporting and entertainment in Ottawa, Lansdowne Park and its stadium was one of the top destinations in the city.

The End of One Era…

In the fall of 2007, cracks were discovered in the concrete structure of the lower south side stands. After conducting an engineering study of the north and south structures, the south side was condemned and the lower section was demolished in June 2008.

That same summer, a group of local investors formed a consortium called Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG) to explore the potential of bringing a CFL team back to Ottawa. The league accepted their bid, with the condition that Frank Clair Stadium be upgraded before the franchise was activated. OSEG and the City of Ottawa were back and forth with proposals and assessments over the following couple of years until, in June 2010, word was received that Ottawa City Council had approved OSEG’s latest redevelopment plan.

It included the overhaul of Frank Clair Stadium along with other conditions pertaining to the redevelopment of Lansdowne, including the implementation of retail space, residential housing, and an urban park. In November 2011, the remaining south side structure was demolished piece-by-piece, its concrete and steel recycled and seats reused for a new skating rink at city hall. Demolition was completed come January 2012 and the new facility was underway shortly thereafter. The plan was to completely reconstruct the south stands while renovating and upgrading those on the north side.

The partly revamped and partly reconstructed facility, officially renamed TD Place Stadium in January 2014, would be home to the CFL’s Ottawa RedBlacks and North American Soccer League’s Ottawa Fury FC, with each club set to make its debut in the summer of 2014.

…Begins Another

Solotech’s Gatineau office first entered discussions to take on the AV integration for the entire stadium and grounds back in 2010, right around the time the proposal to rebuild was approved and it was announced to the public. Claude Régimbald, branch manager of the Gatineau location, headed up communications with the client, OSEG, to secure the contract.

“We’re definitely happy to be a part of such a milestone for the city,” Régimbald tells Professional Sound. Texas-based firm BAi Consulting completed the initial spec for the audio infrastructure in early 2012, when the redesign was still in its infancy, and shortly after, Solotech was officially awarded the contract. Because of the time lapse between its delivery and when work on the project actually got underway, the team at Solotech spent a fair amount of time reviewing the spec as construction plans for the stadium proper were developing. It originally called for sound reinforcement product from a specific loudspeaker manufacturer; however, getting word of the project, Montreal’s SFM, along with manufacturing partner Eastern Acoustic Works (EAW), worked with Solotech to present an alternate proposal.

From the main office in Whitinsville, MA, EAW’s Application Support Group (ASG) produced several acoustic models using the physical measurements of the stadium compiled by Solotech to deliver a system design with uniform coverage of the stadium seating at its core. Whereas the original design called for line array boxes to handle reinforcement for the north and south stands, that from EAW’s engineers suggested a mix of clustered and individually-hung point source loudspeakers. OSEG had also specified certain colours for the enclosures, and so EAW produced weatherized versions of all of the loudspeakers, some with customized colour finishes to match their surroundings. The design was approved by OSEG, though the time frame to get the speakers delivered to Gatineau – just like virtually every other leg of the job for the various trades – was extremely tight. The loudspeakers were delivered at the end of February 2014, just eight weeks following the confirmed order, with kickoff for the RedBlacks’ home opener versus the Toronto Argonauts set for 8 p.m. on Friday, July 18.

That timeframe, and the subsequent fact that it was shared by the 10 or so different trades on site at any given time, is what Gregory Frechette cites as the most challenging component of the project. “As you can imagine, it takes a lot to successfully orchestrate that number of people in one spot at one time.” Work was also underway on the concessionary and hotel components, which, as Frechette puts nicely, “basically triples the amount of people having to work around each other without walking over each other.”

Frechette was Solotech’s project manager for TD Place, working out of Solotech’s main Montreal office. Frechette is often sub-contracted by the company to head up project management on large construction- based jobs because of his experience in both AV and construction and came into the fold for this one back in November 2013.

Daniel Couvrette is the integration department supervisor with Solotech’s Montreal office and also began his work on the project in late 2013 – “just as things were starting to come to life with the physical install, making sure that the dots were all connecting with the various teams we had on site,” he explains. “Since the project was unfolding so quickly, we had to work hard to keep up with all of the changes and work closely with the other trades onsite,” he says, echoing Frechette’s comments.

Another challenge they faced was running all of the necessary cabling throughout the facility – over 300 km of fibre, copper, Cat-5 and -6, and more – often in lengths of 1,250 ft. without termination. “The client wanted to be able to utilize the existing technology onsite, which still relies on copper, but for the future, there’s also infrastructure for the digital formats,” explains Gaetan Laniel, Gatineau’s technical director. There are three primary hubs for all of the processing equipment – two on the south side and one on the north. The fibre ties the two buildings together, despite each running on its own separate Cat-6 network. “As far as good learning opportunities, the logistics of putting in a broadcast and IT cabling network for a stadium is definitely one,” Frechette chuckles. Régimbald and Laniel continue on that tangent, discussing some of the difficulties that came with the task – working in tandem with the site engineer, ensuring they didn’t interfere with other trades, keeping aesthetics ever in mind…

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QSC TSC-3-B touch panel for Q-Sys system.

While he himself has taken on projects with similar cable infrastructure, Frechette notes how, once the cable was actually onsite and the team was getting ready for the actual installation, many were astounded by the shear volume and amount of labour it would take to complete the task. The kicker? Most of the runs were done in the dead of winter, sometimes pushing -40 degrees C. The entire audio system of both sides of the stadium is based on QSC’s Q-Sys scalable integrated audio solution. “It being relatively new to the market, we spent a lot of time getting to know the Q-Sys product leading up to this,” Couvrette shares. A key contributor to that was the support the company received from the manufacturer and, again, SFM, which handles Canadian distribution and support for that brand as well.

“They were very good about helping us ensure that, before anything shipped, it was all in line with the spec. We didn’t have any issues at all, and I know that’s because of the support of our vendors.” Between the public areas – the stands, concessions, hallways – and private ones – meeting rooms, locker rooms, administration offices – the number of zones throughout the facility managed via Q-Sys is understandably extensive. And as Frechette alluded to, the broadcast infrastructure is also significant, with several patch bays for trucks to link into the system. For simple zone control, no less than 56 QSC TSC-3-B touch screen controllers were provided, primarily for the areas that are locally controlled, along with multiple paging stations. The programming was a joint effort between Solotech and SFM, leveraging one another’s resources to meet the tight deadline.

That was one of the last parts of the job and ran right through to commissioning, ensuring the home opener went off without a hitch. “It’s a very big system, but the way it was designed was all about simplicity and making it user-friendly,” Couvrette says. “It could have been very complex, integrating multiple systems with consoles left and right, but with Q-Sys, everything is directed to one place, so it’s very easy to manage.” Being on such an open platform also makes future expandability a non-issue. “It’s nice to see the evolution of large-scale sound systems like this headed in that direction,” he tacks on.

End Zone to End Zone

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North stand reinforcement, with single EAW QX364-WPs covering upper level & 14 QX366-WPs arranged into seven clusters of two boxes for lower seating.

As for what the Q-Sys is actually driving, reinforcement for the stands is provided entirely via EAW boxes, with a significant array of Atlas Sound and some JBL Control products handling the localized audio through the concessionary areas and the rest of the facility. Reinforcement for the upper level of the revamped north side stands is handled via 11 EAW QX364-WP weather-protected boxes with 60- by 45-degree coverage. The lower level has 14 QX366-WP boxes with 60- by 60-degree coverage, arranged into seven clusters of two boxes.

As for the newly erected south side, the lower level stands get sound via 14 QX326-WP full-range boxes with 120- by 60-degree coverage. The upper level is covered by eight clusters comprised of: two MK2326i-WP boxes with 120- by 60-degree coverage; one MK2394i-WP box with 90- by 45-degree coverage; and one SB250zP-WP dual 15-in. sub. For the wings of the upper level near each end zone, there are four clusters each consisting of one MK8126i-WP, one MK2394i-WP, and SB150zP-WP. All of the EAW speakers throughout the facility were finished with a special weather-protected coating, with those in the upper level of the south side also having a custom Pantone colour as per OSEG’s spec.

Getting the boxes into place came with a few unique challenges based on the building’s design. The roof for the renovated north side was entirely rebuilt and the overhang was actually scaled back by approximately 20 ft. between the architect’s initial design that was used to build the spec and the actual construction, making for a bit of a curve ball. “There were several changes put forth by the architect throughout the course of construction and we were constantly working to keep up with those and adhere to the specified design,” Frechette explains. With input from EAW, the integrators were able to keep roughly the same design, just moving the boxes back and re-aiming to achieve the same coverage and SPL levels. Physically getting the speakers in place on the roof also required a unique solution, as the skating rink made it impossible to employ a crane or scaffolding. That solution? Apex Rope Services, a small company based in Toronto that specializes in rope access, rigging, high-angle rescue, and other high-flying feats. In the rafters, there was just enough room to install a beam clamp and get riggers and equipment into the air for the crew to handle the installation. “The boys were a-one on that one,” Couvrette says about Apex, noting he’s worked with the team a few times in the past. “I’ve been doing this job for 18 years, and they’ve always impressed me with their methods.”

In fact, they impressed the bosses from the other trades so much that one of Apex’s team members ended up sticking around on standby rescue for the other trades working above ground for the remainder of the project. The south side didn’t call for as elaborate an execution, though its shape did offer a certain level of difficulty. “There’s nothing conventional on any point for that roof,” Frechette says with a chuckle. “As far as positioning, aligning, tuning… there were a lot of logistics that went into that process. In most cases, we’re working in a facility with a few corners; for this, it’s like trying to find a corner in a round room.”

All of the cross members on the roof are constructed of wood, so weight was a consideration, though there was also an insistence on clean sightlines, hence the elaborate cluster design and reason there were so many more boxes for the upper level than the lower. The curve also informed the slightly different cluster configuration for the seating closest to the two end zones. As for reinforcement across the rest of the facility, Atlas Sound’s FAP62T 6-in. and FAP82T 8-in. two-way in-ceiling loudspeakers handled the majority.

For spaces requiring boxes, a complement of Atlas Sound and JBL products were employed – primarily Atlas’ SM82T 2-way boxes, JBL’s install-ready AWC-82 all-weather boxes, and Control 25T all-weather boxes. Some were used for the meeting rooms, which also feature small AV systems with a display, mics, and so on, all tied into the main system. “So theoretically,” Laniel offers as an example, you could tie one of the meeting rooms to the main PA. That just shows how everything is pretty much plug-and-play.”

Overtime

TD Place Stadium was a massive undertaking for Solotech’s Gatineau office, though plenty of support came via its Montreal headquarters and supplier partners. When asked about aspects of the job that the team hadn’t faced in the past that offered a good learning opportunity, Laniel and Régimbald share a laugh – “just about the whole job,” Laniel says, but adds that the process went relatively smoothly and there were never any major concerns.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “it’s been very gratifying being part of a project of this size. We got to explore a lot of new technologies to find the best solutions, and in all, it was a great experience.”

Ultimately, the goal is to deliver a similarly great experience to patrons cheering on their local clubs with uniform and intelligible sound, and after just a few football games, it’s pretty clear that’s the case.

The system is performing like a first-liner, especially considering it’s tough to compete with 24,000 screaming fans.

Sporting Equipment

A look at some of the key audio components integrated into TD Place Stadium, courtesy of Solotech.

118 x Atlas Sound FAP62T 6-in. 2-way in-ceiling speaker

38 x Atlas Sound FAP82T 8-in. 2-way in-ceiling speaker

54 x Atlas Sound SM82T 175 W 8-in. 2-way loudspeaker

16 x EAW MK2326i-WP 2-way switchable weatherproofed loudspeaker

12 x EAW MK2394i-WP 2-way switchable weatherproofed loudspeaker

4 x EAW MK8126IPL-WP passive 2-way weatherproofed loudspeaker

14 x EAW QX326-WP 2-way full-range weatherproofed loudspeaker

11 x EAW QX364-WP 2-way full-range weatherproofed loudspeaker

14 x EAW QX366-WP 2-way full-range weatherproofed loudspeaker

4 x EAW SB150zP-WP 525 W, 8-ohm 1×15-in. weatherproofed subwoofer

8 x EAW SB250zP-WP 1050 W, 4-ohm 2×15-in. weatherproofed subwoofer

2 x EAW UX8800 Digital Signal Processor with EAW Focusing

34 x Electro-Voice SX300 PIX 300 W 12in. weatherproof speaker

62 x JBL AWC-82 8-in. 2-way compact all-weather loudspeaker

14 x JBL Control 25T 150 W 5.25-in. two-way speaker w/ transformer

6 x JBL MTC-PC2 input panel cover for JBL ControI

21 x JBL 150 W 70 V 2-way speaker

27 x QSC CIML4-KIT Q-Sys std. mic/line card kit (4 channels in w/ 48 V)

36 x QSC CODP4-KIT Q-Sys DataPort output card kit (4 channels)

10 x QSC COL4-KIT Q-Sys line level out card kit (4 channels)

4 x QSC CORE-500i Q-Sys Core w/128 channels, 8 card slots, 2 CPIO

6 x QSC CX108V 8-channel amplifier (100 W/70 V)

10 x QSC CX1202V 2-channel amplifier (800 W/70 V)

3 x QSC CX204V 4-channel amplifier (200 W/70 V)

14 x QSC I/O-FRAME Q-Sys input/output Module (4 card slots)

25 x QSC PL340 2-channel amplifier (800 W/8 ohms)

4 x QSC PS-1600H Q-Sys 16-button page station

56 x QSC TSC-3-B Q-Sys touch screen controller (320×240 pixels)