14 April 2017

Burton Coliseum perfects its conditions for concerts and more

At just under 10,000, Burton Coliseum’s capacity for concert events sits in that Goldilocks zone, neither too big nor too small. “It’s just right,” says General Manager, Jason Barnes. “We took over the management of Burton Coliseum three years ago; at the time we could see real potential for growth in the events market. This is an ideal midsized venue perfectly suited to having touring productions of all sorts come through.” But since opening in 1976 Burton was yet to achieve that ideal. “It’s a large reverberant circular concrete building with a domed roof,” explains Barnes.

“Just as we took over Lake Charles was lucky enough to have an American Idol finalist and we needed to stage a homecoming event. It was huge for us; we invited all the VIP officials and elected officials from the Southwest Louisiana region and trucked in a lot of production. Even so - and by pure coincidence because we weren’t yet fully familiar with the venue - where we had placed the VIPs had the best view, but happened to be the worst seats in the house acoustically. They just couldn’t hear anything clearly. To their credit they saw the problem for what it was and enlightened by the experience wanted us, as a priority, to find a solution.”

Barnes and his team assembled a brief that insisted upon ‘a crisp clear sound throughout the venue’. “It also needed to be tonally sweet, rich and full spectrum. We didn’t just want clarity, we wanted the solution to be musical.” Barnes contacted several sound experts throughout the venue industry. “One in particular stood out, making a powerful and persuasive argument that we should consider a company called d&b. We’d never heard of them, ‘dianbe who?’ I asked.

“We quickly realized just how wonderful a d&b system could be. They loved it. But we had other important considerations; if we hadn’t heard of it what was its reputation in the touring world? Further investigation provided a response so strong that it more or less made our minds up.

“Porche Advanced Systems, who ultimately provided and installed the system we now have, presented a demonstration of the d&b Y-Series – the solution they proposed - and it sounded excellent.”

Jacob (Jake) Porche: “They wanted to have something good enough that they could stage their own concert level presentations, and something that would make their venue first choice for staging such shows in Lake Charles. The system we installed is directive; the Y-Series line array is small and powerful, and performs very accurately to the published specification - a critical factor if we were to tame that reverb’. The design is segmented into five zones; although the building is circular the arena is slightly oval, so the zones are north, east, south and west, with the fifth zone on the floor for full seated events.”

Touring concerts aside, there are already more than seventy scheduled events at the coliseum each year including festivals, sports, rodeos, and not least the annual graduation ceremony for McNeese State University. “That’s what sets Jake apart; his company approach is very collaborative,” says Barnes. “When we spoke to him about managing all these different event styles and ways of formatting the room he provided a range of alternatives with a good rationale beneath each suggestion.”

Porche settled on a Symmetrix solution: “We set up a custom R1 file for them so they can mute any section of the system depending on seat configuration, and then added a Symmetrix DSP interface. Using a simple graphic of the arena they can just touch and mute the zones that are unseated. With access to R1 they have complete control when they want it, but there is a ‘nanny setting’ limited to adjustment of level only.”

Barnes is in no doubt the new system will prove a valuable asset for the coliseum. “The credo of our agency as a venue management company, is ‘to exceed expectation’. We do not settle for ‘that will do’. If it’s affordable we always go for the highest quality and this system was entirely affordable. The Y system has already exceeded our expectations.”