Citrus Bowl

Mission: Renovate a Stadium’s AV Systems

Like so many other big-name venues in the Orlando metro area, the Citrus Bowl is in the business of entertaining huge crowds of people at a time. Each year, the stadium hosts a number of high-profile athletic events, like college football’s Florida Classic, Russell Athletic Bowl, and Capital One Bowl. And it also will bring in big-name music acts to play before tens of thousands of fans.

In order to keep pulling in such a prestigious roster, city leaders knew the venerable stadium needed a major makeover if it was to continue to draw the kind of events that sell tickets.

“The Citrus Bowl was a 30-plus-year-old building in need of a major reconstruction renovation,” says John Sparks, assistant division manager of stadium operations for Orlando.

AVI-SPL was brought in to handle to AV integration for a renovation that would occur over 10 months in 2014, and affect over 90 percent of the Citrus Bowl. A major part of that renovation, aside from the structure of the stadium itself, involved the AV systems that make concerts and athletic events come alive for spectators.

Action: A Process-Oriented Approach

Meeting that goal presented itself as a formidable challenge. AVI-SPL was awarded the contract in June 2014, and had to get the majority of the systems ready for the cable pulls in mid-September. So from the day AVI-SPL won the contract, the engineering and CAD work began.

“The best fit for our project was AVI-SPL. I don’t consider them a contractor. I consider them a partner.”- John Sparks, Assistant Division Manager of Stadium Operations, City of Orlando

Despite the project’s daunting timeline, the team’s confidence was high, having worked successfully on other stadiums with consultant WJHW and Turner Construction, the general contractor. In order to keep the project on schedule, onsite leaders took an active role in working closely with Turner so that the necessary cable runs and installation of speakers could be completed.

“Throughout the process, we constantly let the superintendents know to push so that we could push as well,” says Jonathon Sturm, project engineer with AVI-SPL’s Special Project Group. That group’s specialty includes projects involving large venues and complex entertainment systems.

In this case, the team implemented and fine-tuned the systems that turn an event into an experience: systems for sound distribution, broadcast, and closed-circuit TV distribution.

“We had some of the best technicians and engineers on the job that you can get, because if you don’t have a quality technicians, you get C-quality work,” says Craig Dail, AVI-SPL project specialist.

Dail managed a crew of about 15 technicians, making sure they stayed on task, and were on the same page with the end users so that systems would work as intended. His team also coordinated with other trades – such as plumbing and electrical — to see when we could work in other areas of the stadium.

“Planning and staying ahead of the project is really key to meeting deadlines,” says Dail. “It was interesting for being such a fast-paced challenge. There was no time for errors. Everything had to be there when we needed it, and had to be coordinated to get it onsite safely and on time.”

Sturm’s approach to the Citrus Bowl was, as with any project he manages, process oriented. Such an approach, he says, keeps the team on schedule and helps them meet the client’s goal. All of his team’s work needed to be complete by November 20, in time for college football’s Florida Classic between rivals Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman University.

“As soon as we got onsite, we began our main cable pulls,” says Sturm.

Challenges were still on the horizon as the deadline approached. Concrete for the main concourse was poured in late September. That posed a major time crunch as 90 percent of the 85 miles of broadcast cabling would run through cable trays on the main concourse. Risers that connect the different levels for cabling would also have to be finished.

“The communication between AVI-SPL and the Orlando Citrus Bowl was of the utmost importance to make sure everything stayed on track, on time, and on budget,” says Dail.

Just in time for the Florida Classic, AVI-SPL finished installing all of the audio, which was primarily all Harman brands – including the JBL speakers, BSS audio processors, and Crown amplifiers that were utilized for the majority of the audio system.

“JBL-Harman is one of the vendors we use for a lot projects,” says Dail.  “All of the speakers at the Citrus Bowl are from Harman, and they have great-sounding products. We use it for the scoreboard, and it just sounds amazing.”

Impact: Better Equipped for Big Events

Since its renovation, the Citrus Bowl has hosted events as large and diverse as a stop on the Rolling Stones’ tour, and a match between the World Cup champion U.S. women’s soccer team and its rivals from Brazil.

“We did a total reinvent of this facility,” says Sparks.

“The stadium has a lot of tie-lines, so wherever you are, you can communicate with somebody else,” says Dail.

That ability to easily connect throughout the stadium is a function of its network design.

“Everything lives on the network, everything is streamed over the network, everything can be monitored over the network,” says Sturm. “It’s very easy with Harman software to add and subtract things as you need.”

“The best fit for our project was AVI-SPL,” says Sparks. “I don’t consider them a contractor. I consider AVI-SPL a partner.”