in October 2007
Enter the Zone
By Jim Stokes
Kansas City bar and grill offers interactive 'servings.'
|View from the second level, looking into the first floor bar and main building entry area, gives an idea of the extensive use of flat screens, projection and audio applications throughout the facility.
“Get Your Game On!” is truly the rallying cry of the Sports Radio 810 Zone. With more than 70 combinations of HD plasma and LCD screens, the popular bar and grill, located in upscale Country Club Plaza in Kansas City MO, offers a wide range of not only sports viewing but also live gaming, interactive gaming and a choice of viewing other entertainment and information.
Business-wise, the venue is a partnership among Union Broadcast, which owns WHB Sports Radio 810, the restaurant and brewpub management company K.C. Hopps, Ltd., and a group of local financial partners. This Country Club Plaza is the second opening of an 810 Zone. The original location was in the Town Center Plaza in Leawood KS, where it was heralded as having “the nation’s first interactive televisions.” Thus, both venues have high-tech legacies. We’ll explore the AV later, after this look at the historical locale.
Nation’s First Shopping Center
Thanks to the rapid advancement of automobile travel in the 1920s, the Country Club Plaza became the country’s first shopping center. It was the dream of entrepreneur J.C. Nichols. And, like most visionaries, he had his share of naysayers. Thus, when construction was announced, many locals called it “Nichols’ Folly.” However, the detractors had no idea that Nichols had an entire master plan so forward in design that future buildings would be part of the envisioned project.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Plaza’s eventual home was within the wilds of the Brush Creek Valley, which was not much more than a watering hole in what was still a part of the country’s Midwest frontier, with visits from settlers, soldiers, trappers and traders. However, Nichols had places to see around the world. Earning money on the way, he and a friend toured the British Isles and Europe. Old world charm, Spanish marketplaces and architecture, and Southwest United States buildings spurred Nichols on to build Country Club Plaza, which led to a career in real estate development.
Thus, “Nichols’ Folly” is far from foolish. The Plaza’s gorgeous courtyards and stucco buildings with tile roofs and elegant towers exude a Spanish theme. In addition, Nichols shrewdly acquired lovely works of art, such as statuary and fountains, to beautify the Plaza further. The shopping center has become known as a destination for style and trends, with such national merchants as Apple Computers and Tiffany & Company opening their Kansas City locations under Highwoods Properties acquisition from the JC Nichols Company in 1998, after more than 70 years of ownership. Presently, Country Club Plaza is comprised of 15 blocks with more than 150 shops and dozens of fine restaurants. And that brings us full-circle to the 810 Zone.
Overview, Main System Tour
Bob Scott, system designer and salesman, Sound Products, Lenexa (Kansas City) KS, discussed the main AV system, for which the company provided the integration. Later, the interactive booth monitors install provided by Nanonation, Lincoln NE, is discussed by chief marketing officer Brian Ardinger and project manager IV Dickson.
The Country Club Plaza venue was Sound Products’ first AV install in an 810 Zone venue. According to Scott, it was January 2, 2007, when the project was given the go-ahead. It had to be done by “March Madness,” when the area comes out of the Winter doldrums for the excitement of basketball games. “We do a lot of work for the K.C. Hopps group, the parent company of the 810 Zone, for their restaurants. So they chose our company because they felt we had enough manpower and resources to get the job done [by the middle of March].” He added that the project was about $250,000, with video being the focal point.
In summary, he noted that the monitors are controlled via Stardraw Control and augmented with Global Cache GC-100s, “the Stardraw Control integrator’s best friend.” Audio is distributed via dbx ZonePro. “The customer wanted to open its second sports-themed location. It’s sort of like an ‘ESPN Zone’ restaurant. They wanted lots of plasma screens, some large projection screens, a large screen with a quad-video processor, where you can view four channels on one screen or switch to a single large screen view, and many different audio zones.”
He noted that some laptop input jacks were provided, so people could have a meeting and show a Power-Point presentation or play DVDs through a laptop player. And all plasma screens are fed HD (high-definition) component video signals through a digital matrix switcher, so any TV channel can be selected. Programming is delivered via DirecTV satellite and two CATV boxes for local sports networks not available over satellite.
“With all of this equipment in place, the owner knew there would be dozens of knobs, dials, switches and remote controls that could be confusing for the restaurant staff to figure out,” said Scott. “So, it also required a touchscreen control system with the edict that ‘this system must be very simple for my staff to operate!’”
Stardraw Control (SDC) was chosen to control virtually all AV equipment easily via four remote touchscreens and one wireless UMPC. “With SDC being ‘open source,’ we could select our audio and video components to be whatever fit the facility best, instead of having to use only components that would work with a closed source system. We didn’t have to meet any certification requirements or have a computer programmer on staff. This was a ‘different’ solution than Crestron or AMX, so it set us apart from our competition when bidding. I can make changes to the programming and GUI myself.”
Stardraw found favor from 810 management, as well. “I think it’s amazing what we can do with the remote access in this 13,000-square-foot building,” declared 810 Zone general manager Alan Quiggely. “It’s pretty phenomenal. We can walk around any location and change any TVs. And with different games going on at different times, it’s very handy.” He noted that the 810 Zone’s space is in “an old restaurant that we transformed. We took some walls out. It’s a very old building that turned hands a couple times.”
Specifically, screens controlled by Stardraw include 47 HD plasmas and two large wide-screen projectors, including one RGB Spectrum Quadview wide-screen projection system. The Quadview allows up to four inputs to be shown as well as a full screen. In addition, 29 small, interactive LCDs in booths are also SDC controlled. The five 810 zones controlled include the lower bar, which is the main entrance with a very large open-ceiling space. That’s where you’ll find lots of plasma screens and the Quadview projector. The upper bar is a completely separate upper bay area. The skybox is a private, glassed-in room with a 360-degree view of the entire facility, with its own plasma screens and laptop jack for presentations and control panel. The suite, a larger room that can be rented out, has multiple plasmas, a laptop input jack and dedicated DVD player. And the game room is filled with pool tables, video arcade games, plasma screens and a golf driving range.
“The biggest challenge in the install was the construction of the building,” said Scott. “It was difficult because it was an existing older building with thick concrete walls. That made it a solid structure, and there weren’t a lot of chases. It was difficult to get between floors. There was only one large opening, so it was definitely a trial. But we had the manpower to overcome that.”
He added, “At one time, we may have had five people working on that. For a restaurant system, that’s a lot of people. Where [a member of our crew] normally is not a technician, an operations manager may go out and help for the day. I think our general manager even helped out. And I helped a bit myself.” For special wiring needs, West Penn was the only source that could supply a miniature coaxial bundle in plenum.
Scott explained that the primary reason for choosing Electrograph plasmas was that he wanted “something commercial [grade], so it would be built a little more solidly. It would be designed to run 18 hours a day, seven days a week. I also wanted the [monitors] to have tuners, so we could build [the venue] an infrastructure of a cable distribution system. As the last resort, if DirecTV satellite should fail, [patrons] would be able to watch cable TV signals. Now that’s only an emergency backup because that’s not likely. Obviously, price was an issue, as well.” Also, Scott chose to use two satellite dishes, so half the receivers are on one dish and half are on the other. “It’s kind of a built-in redundancy, so they’re not going to be totally dead.”
Scott’s video switching innovation was prompted by the requirement that every TV have the best picture quality via component video. Therefore, the 810 uses HD DirecTV receivers with component video outputs. Because every TV gets video switched independently, there was an obvious need for a good-sized switcher. Rather than install a single 16-in by 64-out device, Scott saved $10,000 by configuring four Knox 16x16 switchers. In turn, there are 16 CE Labs 1x4 DA amplifiers. Thus, the cost savings also created a large bundle of DA cables.
“You’re feeding the DirecTV receivers: one into each of those 1x4 DAs,” he said. “And their outputs go to each Knox switcher. There’s a whole bunch of cables! Believe me, if I wasn’t saving so much money, I would have never done that. Anyway, that’s strictly from a budget standpoint. And it did achieve the purpose.”
Then there’s the mystery of the crisscrossed projector beams. Two huge, 192-inch-diagonal projection screens are mounted on a south and an east wall downstairs at the 810. In turn, this necessitated that each projector’s light beams cross each other. Although this happens often enough in the AV world, Scott noted that the question was raised, “What exactly happens when you do this?”
So, although it may be obvious to those of us who recall basic physics, here’s the answer anyway. Scott noted that it’s not like crisscrossing sprays from two garden hoses. (Wasn’t that fun when we were kids?) That’s because “the projectors emit an electromagnetic field, which is not a physical property like water or another liquid.” As a result, there’s no hindrance to the projected visual. Thus, during the install, “some of us wondered about that,” mused Scott. “Maybe someone else wonders the same thing!”
The Panasonic projectors are native 16x9 widescreen. “We picked those because we didn’t want to [continually] switch 4:3 and widescreen aspect ratios. And the native widescreen 4500 lumens is fairly bright. They’re dual-bulb projectors, in case one bulb fails.”
Although we have other components to discuss, at this point, let’s summarize the audio side of the install. Scott noted that the dbx ZonePro was chosen because it was “an ideal fit for a restaurant/bar application for its simplicity” in selecting zones for options of music and other audio. There are six QSC amplifier-powered zones. Some 37 surface-mounted SoundTube speakers deliver the audio throughout the venue, many mounted on the large brick columns.
FSR Active HD-15 wall plates are placed strategically for showing various laptop presentations in the skybox meeting room and another area. “There could be circumstances where there’s a hard-to-find game, such as some rare European sports event, and it may be broadcast over the internet. The Zone could pull it off the internet and play it on the monitors just like any other source off satellite or cable.”
Interactive Booth Systems
|The lower level control system touchscreen.
The 810 Zone partnered with software developer Nanonation to create tableside interactive digital entertainment systems. This is actually the second location for these units, with the Leawood KS 810 Zone being the first. At the 810’s Country Club Plaza location, there are 29 spots throughout the restaurant. Patrons interact with LCD touchscreens within their booths that offer a wide variety of entertainment and information options, from video games to channel surfing.
Thus, 810 Zone guests can not only look for sports but also other live TV channels. “You don’t have to watch sports channels; watch whatever you want,” declared Nanonation’s chief marketing officer Brian Ardinger. “If you come in with your kids, you have an interactive entertainment system right there to entertain them, as well. And you can check with your sports fantasy teams, or do whatever you want on the internet.” For instance, guests can go to Kansas City sports-related sites for the Royals and the Chiefs. If some family members aren’t sports fans, they can be entertained via the kiosk while other family members watch the game on the big monitors. Of course, the big game can also be accessed at the booth unit by everyone.
Project manager IV Dickson further explained that units are wall-mounted at the end of a booth, so the whole table can see and hear everything. The Cappuccino wall mounts hold a Pandora 915 kiosk PC. Selections are made on a 15-inch Planar LCD touchscreen. Sound is heard on small Logitech computer speakers. “The cool thing is that the units are accessible from our office, the K.C. Hopps office and the 810 Zone offices, so they can put up advertising each week, each month or even each day, if they want to,” said Dickson.
“We watch the machines for health status, to make sure they are online. And when they’re running correctly, we can work with them. They do take a beating. They’re online from 9:00am until 1:30am every day of the week. The screens are being used about 70% of the time by someone in a booth, so they’re being used a lot. They’ve been extremely well received. In fact, even more than I think 810 Zone expected.”
Now we’ve come full circle and back to Sound Products’ Scott with his point of view about the booth units. “I’ve observed when they have all the huge screens and video projectors tuned to a big game. I’ve noticed that so many people will turn their heads and watch it on the LCD screen in the booth, which is the cable TV signal. The funny thing is, there’s maybe a five-second delay on the DirecTV system. So, if a bunch of fans are in a booth and they’re watching the big game on cable, they’ll actually see the big event five seconds before anybody else. And they’ll start hootin’, hollerin’ and screamin’ and ruin the game for everybody else watching on the big screen. From the booth, you’ll hear, ‘They scored!’
“To overcome this, we have a very simple little switch in the head end. The manager just flips the switch that cuts off the cable TV signal [to the booth monitors]. That eliminates that funny little issue of a delay. Somebody reading this may recognize this as a problem in sports bars; where you have different pieces of equipment supplying signals to the game, you’ll have that delay. And, if you’re watching the same game in high definition and non-HD, you’ll have a delay problem.”
Withstanding The Abuse
“As a whole, I’d say the war stories are more on the computers,” said Dickson. “If you see a computer [booth unit component] about a year after it has been in an 810 Zone, it looks a lot worse for wear than even the worst computers I’ve seen in homes. There are ketchup stains and dried-on Coke. Even though [the computers] sit behind a grate, they get their fair share of bashing.”
If you’ve had to wait and wait and wait for the cable TV installer at home, it may not be much better in business. “Well, I think 810 Zone actually waited about six weeks for its cable. So, we had to go down there to work with them and get their cable installed, making sure the units recognized the cable signal.”
Sound Products, Inc.
Sound Products, Inc., Lenexa (Kansas City) KS, was started in 1990. Initially, just two products were offered: headsets for the fast food industry and live channels of satellite music for businesses.
Today, Sound Products is the largest DMX Music franchisee in the country, serving more than 1500 customers regionally and nationally, with more than 100 music formats. An extensive product line includes audio and video environments, audio and video marketing programs, intercom communication systems and surveillance systems.
Sound Products provides installation and service throughout the country in partnership with a nationwide dealer network. All details of an installation are managed from start to finish, including sound system design, equipment procurement, installation coordination and ongoing service. Sound Products is a member of NSCA and adheres to the industry’s code of ethics.
For more information, go to www.soundproductsinc.com.
Nanonation is located in Lincoln NE. From kiosks to digital signage, Nanonation’s software drives sales, fuels profits and enhances the customer experience. The company’s platform seamlessly integrates digital media content and monitors, measures and manages each customer interaction.
Although Nanonation has built cutting-edge software, tools and technologies to help businesses deliver customer experiences, that technology is only a part of the puzzle. Thus, the company focuses on integrating the necessary disciplines, including design, IT, marketing and business processes. The result is a company designed from the ground up to deliver cutting-edge customer experience technologies in a variety of markets.
For more information, go to www.nanonation.com.
50 Global Cache GC-100-6 network adapter, 1 serial and 3 I/R output
3 Global Cache GC-100-18-R network adapter, 2 serial and 6 I/R, rack mounted
4 Obvios KM-T 12" screen
1 Stardraw.com Stardraw Control software
1 Tablet Kiosk V7110 EO UMPC tablet pc
39 Electrograph DTS4225PTD 42" plasmas, 16:9, 1024x768, NTSC/ATSC tuners, speakers
4 Electrograph DTS55PTD 55" plasmas, 1366x768 HD, PIP, NTSC tuner
2 Panasonic TH-65PF9UK 65" plasma monitors
2 Panasonic TH50PF9UK 50" plasma monitors
1 Bogen P30D AM/FM tuner
1 Bogen PK46A rackmount kit for TP30D
16 CE Labs V400COMP 1x4 DA amps
2 Da-Lite 4005-V Cinema Contour fixed frame screens, 192" diag HD, w/Pro-Trim
1 dbx ZonePro 1260 12-input/6-output mixer w/controls on front panel
1 D&M Pro N-V300 DVD player, RS232, global compatible
15 DirecTV 20 hi-def DTV receiver buydown
2 DirecTV T9 5 LNB dishes
2 Panasonic T-DW5000U 4500 lumen WXGA projectors, stnd lens
3 FSR active HD-15 wall plates
4 Knox 16x16 w/front controls, IP control
1 Knox add unbalanced stereo audio to 1 RSII
2 Lowell 278-77 racks w/accessories
51 Pace WHR-2xx line taps, 2 port, 1GHz
3 Pace K6PACK receivers in 7RU
2 Pace WB68 X8 multiswitches
1 Pace PBDIA 0dB CATV amp, wall mount, 860MHz
3 Peerless ACC 550 Unistrut ceiling adapters
1 Peerless ADJ 018024 18"-24" adjustable extension columns
2 Peerless ADJ 0203 2'-3' adjustable extension columns
2 Peerless PAP-PA8 projector-specific adapter plates for Vector Pro
2 Peerless PJRL 411 Encore projector mount kits w/interface bracket
2 Peerless PLA60 articulating arms for 37"-60" flat panel screens.
1 Peerless PLAV70 UNLP universal articulating dual-arms w/vertical adjustment for 42"-71"
3 Peerless PLCM 1CP flat panel straight column ceiling mount kit w/structural ceiling plate, PLP model
8 Peerless PLP SP42 large flat panel adapter plates for DTS4225PTD
1 Peerless PLP pan65 large flat panel adapter plate for 65" Panasonic
3 Peerless PLP UNLP universal adapter plates for 32"-60" screens
2 Peerless PWA 14 Vector Pro projector wall arm
1 Peerless SA 730P SmartMount universal articulating mount for 10"-22" LCD screens, head end touchscreen
5 Peerless SF 630P SmartMount universal flat mounts for 10"-24" LCD screens, 4 touchscreens
8 Peerless SP 850 SmartMount universal pull-out swivel mounts w/tilt/roll features for 26"-50" flat panel screens, column TVs
26 Peerless ST 650P SmartMount universal tilt mounts for 32"-50" flat panel
6 Peerless ST 670P SmartMount universal tilt mounts for 42"-71" flat panel screens
1 Peerless ST 680P SmartMount universal tilt mount for 61"-102" flat panel screens
1 QSC CX 204V 4 channels, 200W/ch @ 70V power amp
1 QSC CX 302V 2 channels, 250W/ch @ 70V power amp
1 RGB Spectrum QuadView XL 4 HD sources to 1 screen
37 SoundTube SM500 5¼" 32W 2-way surface speakers
3 TV One 1T-PC1280PC PC video to component video adapters
1 TV One MX-3141HDA 4x1 component video switcher
1 TV One CH1669-10 HD15M-M w/audio, 10'
4 TV One ZHB1807G-6 HD15M-3BNC breakout, 6'
1 TV One ZHR1720-2 HD15M-3RCA breakout, 6'
3 TV One CHB1570-2 HD15M-5RCA breakout, 6'
TV One component video cables
West Penn plenum rated speaker wire, coax cable; BNC, RCA connectors
List is edited from information supplied by Sound Products, Inc.
Sound & Communications Contributing Editor Jim Stokes has been involved in the AV industry for more than 30 years as an AV technician and writer.