The P.A. People are Australia’s only professional audio vendor with a significant capability to execute both an audio system design for a venue of this scale and deliver a complementary rental solution for a large-scale event.

Friday 21st February 2020 saw the Opening Celebration of the 7th T20 Women’s World Cup at Sydney Showground Stadium.

On the day, the title holders Australia opened the tournament against India, one of the up and coming sides in the competition. The Celebration on the opening day was the culmination of an almost two-year process to upgrade the aging sound system in the venue. Sydney’s The P.A. People were involved from start to finish in the project, being not only the successful contractor engaged to design and install the new system, but also delivering a performance audio and communications package for the Celebration itself.

The Install

In May 2018, in response to their selection as a major venue for the forthcoming T20 Women’s World Cup, the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW (RAS) embarked on a process to upgrade the sound system at Sydney Showground Stadium.

The Stadium had undergone a major refurbishment some five years earlier which included the construction of two new grandstands, and whilst the existing buildings were refurbished internally at that time, replacement of the existing original grandstand sound system was outside the approved scope of works. Given the profile of the World Cup, and that fact that the venue was now host to both the GWS Giants AFL team and the Sydney Thunder BBL team, the RAS Capital Works and Assets teams went to market to seek ideas and options for the upgrade.

The P.A. People responded with a comprehensive options paper outlining a scope of works, appropriate performance criteria, design constraints, and differing types of solution that could be deployed and their associated budgets. Some nine months later The P.A. People were engaged to deliver a new system for the venue.

The initial task involved developing an acoustic model of the venue and the preliminary design of an appropriate sound system that not only would meet the performance criteria previously agreed but would also meet the structural loading requirements of the existing grandstand roof. The P.A. People engaged the RAS’ nominated consulting engineers to provide certification that the proposed design was suitable from a loading perspective.

Our design was based on the latest generation of constant curvature line array from Bose. The new ArenaMatch product fitted the bill perfectly. Released in February 2019, it is high performance, IP rated for outdoor use, and relatively lightweight. It can be powered in low impedance or 100v line mode with an option for bi-amped configuration. Each cabinet houses a custom 14” woofer and six mid high devices giving the system significant mid-range punch and penetration. At Sydney Showground Stadium, we opted to power each cabinet individually in order to maintain maximum flexibility through the commissioning process. The system comprised some eleven clusters, each comprised three 100 degree x 40 degree cabinets, plus an additional two fill cabinets to cover the area between the new and the old grandstands. The system is powered using Bose PM8500N 8 channel amplifiers connected to an existing Biamp Vocia DSP system.

Sydney Showground AV solution

Each cluster is suspended from a custom fabricated bracket, designed so the system can be lowered for maintenance without a requirement for a boom lift or other access equipment. The bracket design and fabrication was carried out inhouse at The P.A. People. “Design of systems with a view to their ongoing maintenance is a feature of our large venue projects” commented Ross Ford, Project Manager for the RAS Upgrade. “Each cluster hangs vertically from a beam which is inclined in two directions; every mounting bracket for the clusters is unique. The bracket design and fabrication is quite a detailed engineering project in itself” said Ross.

The new system is rounded out with a new Yamaha QL5 console and two RIO1608 Dante I/O boxes and was first trialed during the Sydney Thunder BBL games in January. System operator Trevor Beck was suitably impressed; “the system has far better clarity and coverage than the old rig. It makes operating gigs like the Big Bash quite pleasant!”

The Celebration

Whilst the installation was in its later stages, Event Producer Michael Cassel Group was appointed to produce the Opening Celebration for the T20 Women’s World Cup. Veteran Technical Director Nick Newey was assigned the task of putting together the team of suppliers. He quickly learned that The P.A. People, whom he had worked with on many successful events previously, was installing the upgraded system in the venue. A meeting ensued, ideas were tossed around and subsequently The P.A. People were appointed as audio and communications supplier for the event.

The opening celebration encouraged the audience to get into the spirit of the show and celebrate the T20’s theme song ‘Get up and Dance’. With this in mind, the Michael Cassel Group were looking for an audio system that would provide solid low frequency performance as well as effective and even coverage to the stands. The P.A. People proposed a system that combined the low frequency performance and sense of direction of an on-field system based on our Bose Carts, with the elevated clusters in the new installed system. Each of the ten-cart distributed in front of the grandstands features a three element Bose ShowMatch array with two 18” subwoofers, all powered from an onboard Linea Research 44M20 amplifier. Infill between the carts was provided by Bose LT9702 cabinets in layback frames.

The entire system was time aligned with the two upper cabinets in the installed arrays to provide even coverage and a focus on the field of play.

Sydney Stadium Upgrade Speakers

The FOH system was controlled on a Yamaha PM10 and Genelec monitors, with a pair of Mac Mini based QLAB machines for playback. Each Mac Mini is mounted in a Sonnet chassis fitted with a 128 channel Dante interface. Sam Dodds, Systems Engineer for the job commented “We use Dante as our primary mode of audio transport in all our larger system designs. The Linea Research amps and the Yamaha consoles all feature native Dante connectivity. Apart from the use of Yamaha’s RPIO stage boxes and its TwinLAN protocol, pretty much all of the system uses Dante. We really like the feature set of the Yamaha consoles, and have been asked to provide them on a number of recent projects.”

Monitor land which was located behind the stage featured a Yamaha PM7 console, the main Yamaha RPIO I/O frame, and a substantial RF complement for both inputs and outputs along with conventional monitors. The console took eight Shure UHF-R Beta 58 radio mics as well as the tracks from Front of House, and then generated mixes for two channels of Shure PSM1000, six channels of PAP Level 2 IEM systems and a feed for the mass cast dancers who used proprietary FM packs operating just outside the commercial FM band. The stage area was also covered with eight recently refurbished Creative Audio CA3831 foldback wedges. “these wedges are well older than me, but the guys love the sound, so they have been brought back into service – they just sound great” mused Hamish Langdon, Monitor Engineer.

The contract for the celebration also included a substantial Comms system covering all areas of the arena and the rehearsal space. Technical Operators for the production were located on one side of the arena whilst the Show Caller and other portion staff were located almost 300m away in another set of control rooms, which was again some 400m from Monitor land. The comms system comprised a Clear-Com HX Matrix intercom system with twelve key stations spread across all three locations, ten Clear-Com HelixNet partyline belt packs, some twenty FreeSpeak II full duplex packs in use across the arena itself, 8ch of interfaced two way radios with 50 handsets, and a time code display system. The HX Matrix was fitted with a Dante network audio card, which facilitated a simple sharing of sources between the FOH audio system, monitors and the Comms system, while the entire audio and comms infrastructure was built on a common 10GB ethernet back bone, which also provided a connection point for the FreeSpeak II IP Transceivers at any network switch.

“The Comms system was big enough to be non-trivial, but small enough to be handled by two people. Effective comms are the key to these types of events – they are fluid and it is essential that the Comms system allows the creative to develop over what is usually a very short rehearsal period.” commented Andy Carson, head Comms technician on this task for The P.A. People.

Sydney Stadium AV Solution

The Cricket

On the way through the process of the install and celebration delivery, The P.A. People also worked with the sports presentation producers on other aspects of the T20 event. In order to comply with requirements for a T20 World Cup, they needed to provide a secondary LED Scoreboard for the Venue. The P.A. People worked with specialist supplier TDC to install a temporary 7m x 4m screen on the concourse to support the three match days at the venue. “We were also asked to supply a system with another 300 FM mass cast receivers for the Final at the MCG. We were happy to oblige” notes Sam.

The Wrap

The P.A. People are Australia’s only professional audio vendor with a significant capability to execute both an audio system design for a venue of this scale and deliver a complementary rental solution for a large-scale event. Whilst this multi-disciplined approach was not a requirement of the initial project, our understanding of the different requirements of each delivery phase served to inform the project as it progressed – our understanding of production requirements feeds into the installed system design, while understanding the venue certainly assists with the event system design.

This project has drawn together a unique group of stakeholders – The RAS Capital Works team, the RAS Assets and Maintenance folks, the RAS Events team and Michael Cassel Group. Each has their unique requirements for the project, and in the words of RAS Head of Project Development, Jonathan Seward “The P.A. People listened to our requirements and have come up with a solution that has already – and we trust will continue – to meet our needs for the next fifteen years. Overall, we are very happy with the outcome”.