While West Virginia’s scoreboards at Milan Puskar Stadium and the WVU Coliseum have been steadily upgraded and enhanced over the years, accompanying audio hasn’t kept pace. That’s changing, though, with the new systems currently being installed at both venues.
While fans have been mostly complimentary of the improvements on the video side, complaints about the volume, balance and clarity of audio, especially at Mountaineer Field, have been an ongoing trend.
When WVU added a new video board and scoreboard at the north end of the stadium prior to the 2017 season, the quality of the sound system didn’t keep pace. With speakers both aging and out of balance, sound would be too loud at one end of the stadium, or soft and muddled in others. The changed configuration of the stadium, with both end zones enclosed over the years, also contributed to the audio issues.
Back in 2017, WVU director of athletics Shane Lyons noted that audio upgrades would be a targeted improvement in the next round of scoreboard improvements, and now they are on the way – delivered with testing behind it. Audio studies were performed to identify hot spots, dead zones and the like, and those results were incorporated in the design of the audio system and the placement of speakers to produce quality sound at every location in the venue.
“The new speakers ensure the entire stadium venue has audio coverage from the north endzone to the seats in front of the new south endzone videoboard,” a WVU spokesman confirmed.
While not as problematic, the Coliseum underwent the same process to make sure the new board and sound system also work well and deliver a quality experience. One additional area of that venue also being replaced and upgraded is the lighting. The new LED lights can be switched off and on without a required warm-up period, thus preserving the lights-out pre-game for basketball home games, but that’s just the start of the advancements.
Designed and manufactured by Ephesus sports lighting a division of Cooper Lighting Solutions, the LED lights are programmable with different colors and temperatures, which can be tuned to different events in the Coliseum. The more efficient system will provide Final Four-level lighting for game broadcasts while reducing the actual number of light fixtures from 148 to 92.
As if that weren’t enough, there are many more technical considerations in play than simply uninstalling the old boards and lights and putting up new ones. Integration of existing technologies and control systems with those of the new boards is part technical, part art form.
For example, one existing software system is used to package and create video clips, graphics and the like, and that product has to be sent to the new control systems for the boards in order to get them to the screen. Operation of the boards themselves also will require training and education, making for a transitional period that stretches past the date when the last piece of hardware is bolted in place.
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Also on tap for use this year is a new mobile production unit that can be used at multiple venues on campus to produce game broadcasts. In the past, WVU has rented or leased such a unit when it needed one. However, the new unit, now under construction, will allow for broadcast production at any on-campus sports venue, as it can be quickly set up wherever it is needed, and eliminate the issue of potential scheduling conflicts.
The need for the mobile production unit came about with the increase of events the athletic department will be self-producing as part of the Big 12 Now agreement. That rights agreement was executed between the league and ESPN last year. and runs through 2024-25. WVU is expected to televise at least 50, and in all likelihood more, events on that platform this season.