16 April 2018

Oilers and Opera at Rogers Place Edmonton.

It’s not often you encounter a genuine up-lift in the standard of sports presentation, even less so in one of the more remote corners of the sporting universe. But at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the new home for the National Hockey League Edmonton Oilers, the internal architecture resembles nothing less than an eighteen thousand-seat version of a modern opera house.

Eschewing huge uniform glass slabs the premium seating and VIP areas are intentionally integrated within the seating bowl, while the catering and bar facilities overlook the rink so that refueling fans might never lose touch with the action on the ice. The comparison holds true in other ways, the Oilers Entertainment Group has invested in a state of the art sound system from d&b audiotechnik.

Oilers Entertainment Group’s consulting team invited one of Canada’s leading acoustic consultancies, Orchestral Arts Inc. (OAi), to participate in the project. “Oilers Entertainment Group looked to Orchestral Arts to define both the extensive acoustic treatments and sound reinforcement systems,” said Dale Fawcett, principal of OAi outlining two distinct responsibilities.

“When an architectural drawing set for Rogers Place was presented to Orchestral Arts, some acoustical challenges became immediately apparent,” continued Fawcett. “Unlike arenas which position loudspeakers above and around the center ice score clock, the main loudspeakers in this arena would need to be lowered and moved closer to the listeners.”

Still, the classic conundrum – how to control the loudness of the reverberation – prevailed. Acoustic treatments defined by OAi are found in the entirety of Rogers Place, from the high ceiling and side walls of Ford Hall to the dressing rooms for players and performers. “The extent of the acoustic treatments required principal architectural firm HOK Architects to play an instrumental role in guiding their completion through the construction processes,” noted Fawcett. “The acoustic in the bowl provides an essential environment for the d&b sound system eventually selected.”

Following discussion with Francois Corbin at d&b audiotechnik Canada and with input from the d&b headquarters’ Applications department, Fawcett used EASE acoustics simulator software to verify an installation solution founded upon ten line arrays of d&b V-Series arranged around the seating bowl. Specifically, the Vi8 installation version was used to shape the main arrays, with three cardioid Vi-SUBs deployed immediately behind each array - all powered by D80 amplifiers. Delays for the upper concourse seating and the writing press, fill speakers for seating immediately bordering the mid bowl dasher boards, and fills for the players and officials on the ice was accomplished using the d&b Yi10P point source loudspeaker. A combination of d&b D20 and D80 amplifiers were used for the Y-Series enclosures.

“No compromise was made with respect to coverage in the higher bowl,” explained Fawcett. “Gary Urlacher, owner of Allstar Show Industries, attended to installation details throughout the entire project. His team’s effort was exemplary through the difficult construction process.”

Beyond the arena bowl Oilers Entertainment Group provided Orchestral Arts with detailed input lists for every room. Fawcett introduced the idea of a QSC Q-SYS solution. “The system has more than 480 inputs and 420 outputs, and includes 1500 distributed loudspeakers throughout the facility on many signal delays all timed off the respective d&b arrays. Dedicated Q-SYS outputs exist for each of the d&b amplifier channels.”

While the acoustic and sound system was designed for hockey, it is also available for touring acts. “The bowl system has the capability to connect the d&b arrays and subwoofers to a touring system, specifically to the far end zone but also other zones,” said Fawcett. “With d&b included on many riders, it is hoped that this use will develop over time, and maybe even operatic events. For touring acts – an important revenue stream for the facility – the acoustic treatment in the bowl was envisioned to provide a good feel for artists and engineers first entering and then rehearsing in the space. Keith Urban, who gave the inaugural concert, was quoted on the Rogers Place website: “So many arenas are purely built for sport and the concert sound suffers, but not Rogers Place. It’s one of the best sounding arenas I’ve played in.”