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Ahead of their Game

Toni Krasicki investigates how The P.A. People’s ‘fit-for-purpose’ design philosophy and complete service ethos makes for a winning combination.

When asked what sets The P.A. People apart from other companies providing a similar product, Managing Director, Chris Dodds maintains that it’s their collective ‘hands-on’ expertise. As one of Australia’s largest suppliers of audio visual systems, performance lighting and production communications systems, The P.A. People is a leader in the communication systems field.

With 40 years of experience designing and installing, servicing and operating systems, they have become the ‘go-to’ people for fitting-out all types of venues; including entertainment and sporting venues, churches, schools, government departments as well as equipping large-scale events.

Dodds explains “the majority of companies in this field employ people who have taken an active interest in the technology but generally their understanding of the operational aspects are more textbook than experiential."

“What marks us apart from our competitors is the fact that Installation Manager, Brett Steele, myself and quite a few of the other people in our business, have been and are still actively using and deploying the equipment and the systems."

“The link between designing and installing, operating and using, and then servicing and maintaining, is a closed loop with our organisation."

“I can safely say that there is no one else in this business that provides a full closed loop and understands the lifecycle of how these systems and products are used.”

Heavily based in engineering and with a focus to deliver functionality in their design, Brett Steele adds that it’s their dedication to the task, their knowledge of what people want and the ability to work to deadlines, that keeps customers coming back.

Fit-for-purpose Design Philosophy

Whether it is a single-service venue, requiring a one-off system design, integration and installation: or venues that have adopted long-term relationships, The P.A. People through their fit-for-purpose design philosophy, integrate client need and venue capability. In recent years, for example, the company has worked in the NSW club market with sector-leading Bankstown Sports Club on a range of solutions for very different parts of their extensive main venue and sister club locations.

The large-scale member-based operation was initially cautious in relying on a preferred AV supplier. Dodds admits that although it took a while for them to understand the benefits of appointing The P.A. People -“We are now their vendor of choice and we now have a relationship that is similar to the relationships we have with the stadiums.”

Serving thousands of patrons on a daily basis, the requirements of Bankstown Sports Club are vastly different from those of stadiums and arenas. Through collaboration with the Club’s AV Manager, Jason Klippel and The P.A. People system designers, the design and integration of systems across three areas of the Club were developed. A purpose-built solution that manages audio for The Rainforest (an informal seated area and stage) resolved a past issue and the function and meeting rooms had their technology-enabled facilities updated to provide a high quality and innovative meeting environment.

The Theatre, now offering a plush-seated entertainment experience, has the capability to host a variety of shows requiring different audio formats. General Manager, Andrew Kelly says that the capability and flexibility of the PA system appeals to the needs of the wide variety of venue usages, which range from rock concerts and dance performances to speeches and presentations.

With the more recent addition of The Basement Brewhouse (a microbrewery requiring a contemporary system, providing high quality distributed sound and high definition vision) Brett Steele says that there was lot of visual content required, including dedicated TVs in booths.

Fit-for-Purpose Showpieces

During it’s redevelopment in 2013, The P.A. People installed a significant IPTV system at the Royal Randwick Racecourse. Commenting on the showpiece, Brett Steele adds “it’s certainly the best system they have had We haven’t installed an IPTV system to quite the same scale at any other venue.”

Dodds agrees that the system design featuring sixty channels of content, 30 pages of digital signage, and over 700 screens ranging from 21” touchscreens PCs to 84” TVs is fit-for-purpose. “We tendered with five of the six builders that pitched for that job and three of those builders carried our pitch as their lead offer. There was no detail or specification other than it shall be this loud, it shall have this sound quality - nothing in terms of numbers of speakers or locations.”

“They literally had areas marked on the floor plan that said you have to cover these spaces, and that was before the interior architecture was done. It’s this combination of having the ability to budget those things and be able to put that in context in a commercial sense as well as in a technical sense.”

Whole-of-life Delivery

The ‘whole-of-life’ capability also sets The P.A. People apart from other competitors. Providing an end-to-end capability that includes the design, the installation, regular maintenance and ongoing operation of the system, allows for an improved understanding of any future upgrades that may be required.

Chris Dodds says that although clients may not want whole-of-life service straight after installation, it’s something that will be a conversation for the long-term; “For them to have the knowledge and the certainty that we are not only going to pitch them something that is whizz-bang technically, but that we’re going to pitch and design them something that’s going to meet not only the requirements the day they walk in, but for the next five or ten years.”

Hisense Arena, Melbourne’s multi-purpose sporting and entertainment venue, has a specifically designed and installed system that allows the venue to change from a tennis stadium to a velodrome and then to a concert arena. Initially beginning as a single-service venue with the design and installation of the in-house PA system, it’s now just over 14 months old and The P.A. People have earned an ongoing system maintenance contract.

ANZ Stadium, Sydney Cricket Ground, and Allianz Stadium (Sydney Football Stadium) are three key operators that maintain a whole-of-life service. Dodds adds “we do operate other equipment and projects, but they are on a rental basis rather than reinforcing an installed system.”

The long-standing relationship with ANZ Stadium began in 1999 when the stadium was built, primarily for the Sydney Olympics. Initially there was the installation of PA, paging and ancillary systems plus a further solution to cover the whole Olympic site. Since this time there has been further system upgrades in 2003 and 2013, as well as ongoing cyclic maintenance.

Brett Steele explains “our service team has maintained the equipment in the venue on a monthly and quarterly basis - and the events team has provided operators for the system for all events that are held at the stadium.”

Providing a team of experts to operate a system that they are familiar with, from the ground up, no doubt builds a trust with venues that specialise in live events. Daryl Kerry, Managing Director of ANZ Stadium says “Dealing with the huge variations in what we need to achieve each time, particularly around event communications systems, is really challenging. You’re only given one chance to do these things. What where all chasing, you know really - is world class results. It’s a live environment, very demanding - no room for errors; so we’ve got to nail it each and every time, and we find The P.A. People do that - without any doubt.”

Sounding Out Events

Chris Dodds says The P.A. People has the applied knowledge of engineering and system technology gained through working on events in a vast number of venues and precincts. “If you look at something like ANZ Stadium, not only did we install it, but every match, every week, we are there and we operate it. If there is a problem with the system, our service people fix it”.

In addition to working with large stadiums on an on-going basis in venue partnerships, the company is contracted to supply communication systems to a wide range of events. Providing an expert operations team, periodic contracts include; Sydney New Year’s Eve, St Kilda Festival and the Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix. It’s a similar scope of work on the systems that are installed on a temporary basis.

Further afield, The P.A. People has secured many contracts with large sporting events, including the inaugural European Games held in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2015 where they provided communications, CCTV and technical services to the opening and closing ceremonies. Supporting the sport component at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, they supplied the majority of the intercom equipment and systems and sent a dedicated team of technicians.

Do large-scale multi-day sporting events pose a challenge? Dodds doesn’t think so, concluding “we definitely don’t see this as a challenge in the way other companies may. Part of what we do is to manage risk and we understand what the parameters are - and work through that. Our teams understand the dynamic nature of events and understand their evolving needs; so in-built redundancy is essential. It’s our job to know the unknowns” said Chris.

Toni Krasicki is a freelance writer with over 26 years’ experience in the fitness and recreation industry.

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