Auditoria design venue-wide d&b solution for an ears and eyes journey at the ‘G’.
“There aren’t that many occasions when you encounter a 100,024 seat space; I think there are only eleven in the world.” When the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) contracted Emmy-Award winning AV consultancy Auditoria, led by Scott Willsallen, the brief was simply to deliver the best possible audio to every seat – and in doing so anchor its reputation as a world class sporting venue. Cricket is the second most watched sport in the world and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or the ‘G’ as it’s affectionately known, is its second largest home. Yet, for Willsallen, no stranger to stadia, the project was less an issue of scale, than taking care of the subtleties.
With memory-making game days, not ROI, in the driving seat, the MCC has reimagined the value of audio in stadia, taking its vision beyond the bowl into every public space, including restaurants, bars, atria, concourses, gate entry and exit points, as well as broadcast facilities. For those involved in this highly collaborative project, including Auditoria’s senior consultant Luis Miranda, installer Rutledge AV, (now a Diversified company), d&b’s Australian partner, NAS, and the MCC’s General Manager IT & Innovation, Rey Sumaru, it was an exercise in thinking optimally and working backwards.
To understand the fan’s game day journey Willsallen spent time in the venue, tuning in to the detail. His insight-gathering exercise resulted in a critical realization: that 100,024 people can either be simultaneously in their seats or elsewhere in the venue – in any one of the staggering 3,000 plus back of house rooms. “I’d already spent six months in the building doing the Commonwealth Games,” admits Willsallen, “and I had no idea there were that many spaces.” Willsallen rethinks capacity and designs for 200,000, going above and beyond to transport the in-play atmosphere - at the flick of a switch - to every major touchpoint beyond the bowl.
Of the numerous d&b systems, the first kicks in on arrival. Custom paging allows the MCC to tailor its messaging to unique zones, supporting the fans as they move around, streamlining arrival and departure. These are not your typical, irritatingly-hard-to-hear public announcements, but clear, authoritative communications. Gate filtering information comfortably reaches crowds arriving at the ground, information that becomes gate specific the closer fans get to the building - have your bags out, tickets ready. Once inside the attentive voice of the MCC imparts all the game day need-to-knows; a reassuring welcome before entering the bowl.
For the unseasoned visitor, families, and the excitedly distracted, this thoughtful positioning of speakers is simply about easing the journey.
Stadiums are, by definition, complex spaces structurally and acoustically and the geometry of the G is no exception. Designed without sound reinforcement in mind, the fifty seven under-balcony bays inside the bowl were, prior to the upgrade, notoriously muffled by reputation; acoustically speaking the worst (but not the cheapest) seats in the venue. Yet, at capacity the under-balconies seat a staggering number of fans – a fact not easily relegated to the side-lines.
Not only do the under-balcony bays now benefit from acoustic treatment, but each one is equipped with a dedicated d&b system of its own – standout moves with nothing but the fans’ experience in mind. These once disconnected spaces are now in total harmony with the dynamic energy elsewhere; as the dramatic highs and lows play out, the audio quality inside the bowl remains strikingly natural and consistent - in all 100,024 seats.
Willsallen’s decision to select products from a single manufacturer (all d&b loudspeakers share a common tonality), has resulted in a seamless audio experience throughout - an ecosystem of sound. The new system, with its innovative software also enabled a more straightforward commissioning process plus several long-term operational and technological advantages.
Meeting EWIS/PAVA life safety standards is, for many venues, synonymous with the audio brief, but for Willsallen, knowing the capabilities of the d&b system, this was less a goal than a foregone conclusion - a starting point for thinking beyond baseline intelligibility. The result is a system that not only delivers authentic live and pre-recorded messaging, but enables performing artists to access musically exciting, production sound.
Ultimately, the scale, complexity, and small window of opportunity to complete the installation, plus the project’s lets-aim-for-the best-and-work-backwards approach, means the MCG won’t need another audio upgrade anytime soon. As someone wise once said, it’s been a case of doing it well, doing it once. In answering the brief - to give fans the best experience possible - Auditoria has mapped the game day journey, encompassing every touchpoint, through a holistic eyes-and-ears approach, and in doing so, united the fans’ experience through sound.
Fan engagement has led the MCC’s Smart Stadium Strategy for several years and while high density WiFi has digitized the customer journey, this carefully curated work of tech’ will ensure that journey doesn’t lose its soul. The audio factor at the G is at once comfortable and connective, and will see fans in their thousands freefall, unforgettably, into the life-affirming theatre of sport.