Every so often a project comes along that not only allows a company to technically innovate and push boundaries but also work with a highly respected educational institution in one’s own backyard. The project, for the University of Connecticut’s (UCONN) Athletic District, was honored by the Associated General Contractors of CT (AGC) 2022 Build Connecticut award for the large new construction category.
Connecticut-based Metinteractive, which provides strategic solutions for architecture, communication and technology, furnished AV and Broadcast integration to UCONN Athletic District Development (ADD). The ADD program solved the challenge of improving the outdoor sports venues while consolidating efforts onto a single campus high above Gampel Pavilion at UCONN’s Storrs Campus in Mansfield.
“Metinteractive is committed to supporting our home teams,” says Jeff Mele, Metinteractive’s CEO. “Over the years my father and other family members have been big UCONN fans so, for me, that very personal legacy made me want more than ever to deliver the best product we possibly could for ADD at UCONN. We have a history of working successfully with the university, including on the award-winning Student Recreation Center. It makes us feel good to support UCONN over and above our obligations.”
The project also dovetailed nicely with Metinteractive’s expertise in sports nationwide, he points out. “Metinteractive has a significant foothold in the college sports market across the country as well as with Major League stadia and minor league arenas and stadia. Thanks to our work with leading teams, particularly MLB scoring and stats, we can produce a workflow for these projects that most integrators are not be able to achieve.”
Under the partnership of contractors Daniel O’Connell’s Sons and McPhee Electric Ltd., UCONN’S ADD improvements replaced outdated facilities with new stadia for men and women’s Division I soccer, lacrosse, baseball and softball plus track and field. A new Performance Center, contiguous to the soccer stadium, was also added with a state-of-the-art broadcast control room, locker rooms, offices, training space, strength and conditioning equipment, conference rooms and support space.
“Our challenges for this project were twofold: improving the in-venue fan experience and adding a broadcast control room for linear TV and streaming,” notes David Kaplan, Assistant Athletic Director of Video & Production Services at UCONN. “Metinteractive brought to the job their experience and expertise in building out production rooms and venues and demonstrated a willingness to work with us across our specific needs.”
The Performance Center’s broadcast control room is believed to be unique in college athletics allowing UCONN to simultaneously produce multiple shows. “Everything we talked about from design to inception came to fruition in the broadcast control room,” says Kaplan. “It works flawlessly.”
“Creating a user-friendly environment for a control room that technically complex was a challenge,” Mele reports. “Workflow is rarely translated through construction documents and drawings; in fact, it’s often overlooked in putting projects together. But David understands how to build a quality experience and was instrumental in how we developed the workflow for this project; we pushed to make the changes necessary to satisfy the control room’s workflow needs.” The project’s AV Consultant Jaffe Holden Acoustics, worked very closely with the integration team to marry the workflow needs of the owner into the project.
Metinteractive Project Manager Kyle Passaro explains that, “all of the outdoor sports venues’ AV signals – the cameras, the live sound components in the stadia – and communications now connect via fiber to the control room where two events can be broadcast simultaneously. ESPN can pull in and use the control room for tournaments while local TV takes advantage of its capabilities and UCONN streams events.”
The broadcast control room’s extraordinary capabilities even exceed expectations. UCONN “actually produced two in-stadium events and two streams out of the control room at one time,” Kaplan reports.
Even more expansive service will be available when field hockey, basketball from the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, and ice hockey from a new arena tie into the broadcast control room extending coverage to those sports.
Metinteractive also filled AV needs throughout the 54,000-square-foot Performance Center, including video monitors and playback systems – with outdoor-rated TVs in the hydrotherapy room – and ceiling- and wall-mounted audio speakers for each room.
In the baseball and softball fields Metinteractive installed batter analysis systems in which multiple software-enabled cameras, mounted in specific locations, analyze the swings of players coming up to bat.
The new stadia feature custom-mounted EAW outdoor speaker systems for what Kaplan calls “spectacular sound.” Most of the speakers are positioned on poles with some on the exterior of the Performance Center, which is contiguous to the soccer pitch.
In addition, “thanks to our work with Major League Baseball we were able to offer the venues a level of graphics automation, for scoring and stats, typically found only in Major League stadia,” Mele says.
Metinteractive also developed a custom camera trolley system for the stadia to enable broadcasters to capture dynamic camera shots that could not otherwise be achieved due to the physical constraints of space, windows and walls.
Although the first phase of the UCONN project has been completed, more remains to be done. “We’re very excited about working with Metinteractive on our new hockey arena due to open later this year,” notes Kaplan. “Metinteractive will handle all its camera and audio needs and tie the facility into the broadcast control room.
“The Metinteractive team has shown a real affinity for UCONN,” he adds. “I can’t speak highly enough about the work they’ve done for us.”
Greg Downing served as Metinteractive’s Engineer on the project and Jesse LaBranche was the Lead Technician.