ARLINGTON, TX, June 1, 2010 – Rising from the Texas landscape as grand as sunrise over the tall grass prairie, Cowboys Stadium is the largest domed stadium in the world. Home of the National Football League’s Dallas Cowboys, the facility is outfitted with a communications infrastructure employing wireless systems supporting everything from the simple exchange of information behind-the-scenes to entertainment for the 80,000 fans that fill the stands on game days.
Playing a central role within a complex and rigidly-controlled RF blueprint, 16 channels of Shure UHF-R® wireless span the stadium all the way from the field through the club levels and up to the main systems control room. Joining the single and dual-channel UHF-R systems dedicated to the task, Shure PSM® 700 systems bring four channels of personal monitoring capabilities to the main bowl system.
Kevin Day, a senior consultant working from the Dallas offices of WJHW, provided a comprehensive audio spec, fulfilling the needs of the stadium. The implementation of the design was managed by Pro Media/UltraSound. With lots of experience with projects of this scale, the Hercules, California-based firm has posted credits on its resume over the course of the last decade that include the modernization of the bowl system at Candlestick Park, the installation of sound systems at Dallas’ American Airlines Arena, and high-profile sonic overhauls of the Honda Center in Anaheim and Kyle Stadium on the campus of Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.
“Any pro sports arena is an extremely hostile environment when it comes to wireless RF spectrum,” notes Demetrius Palavos, Pro Media/UltraSound’s senior sales and design engineer. “What made this project exceptionally demanding was its proximity to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which is a maximum of about eight miles away. A lot of the airport’s communication towers are even closer.”
To meet the challenge, WJHW chose Shure UHF-R wireless based on the technology’s track record for providing reliability and performance. On the club levels, single channel UR124S/Beta 87A combo systems leave a handheld UR2 receiver and UR1 bodypack transmitter at the disposal of users. Kept at hand for use with the bodypacks, Shure’s cardioid WL185 lavalier microphones also see duty on each of the club levels.
Elsewhere in the stadium where wireless needs are greater (such as in the control room system used to capture on-field entertainment and the singing of the national anthem), dual-channel UR124D/Beta 87A combo systems broaden the aural palette using the same UR2-UR1-WL 185 approach. Built using wireless circuitry as robust as that included in the UHF-R systems, PSM 700 in-ear monitoring is used exclusively in the on-field entertainment system.
An active UA845-SWB antenna combiner splits a pair of UA870 paddle antennas for use across the channels in the on-field system. “The distance is a good 250 feet from the 50-yard line up to control booth-mounted receivers,” Palavos relates. “We initially talked about using helical antennas for this part of the project, but the stadium’s RF coordinator felt the Shure receivers and transmitters were already well-equipped for the job, so they wouldn’t be necessary. As it turned out, he couldn’t have been more correct.”
Keller McCrary has occupied the post as the stadium’s RF overlord since the earliest phases of the facility’s construction. Charged with giving painstaking coordination to every RF signal required for any event, McCrary brings a level of skill and authority to his ongoing assignment that Palavos credits as being one of the underlying factors in the rock-solid wireless performance found on the property.
“The other component responsible for our success is found in the Shure gear itself,” Palavos adds. “The electronics in the front-end of these systems does a great job of rejecting any off-band interference that may try to step on us. Having Keller lay down the law on who is going to occupy what frequency is vital. But some systems in use here may transmit extremely hot, or not be engineered that well. In the latter cases, a system may indicate that it’s tuned to a specific frequency, but in reality may be off-center to that frequency. The Shure gear holds its own in the face of this kind of competition and makes any potentially harmful episodes a non-issue.”
Pro Media/UltraSound tuned the Shure wireless systems with the aid of Shure’s Wireless Workbench® software for operation stadium-wide on the H4 bandwidths (518 – 578 MHz). By his own account, Palavos, along with Pro Media colleagues Richard Bratcher and Ted Leamy, “spent quite a bit of time walking around looking for dropouts. Richard exercised a phenomenal amount of patience in getting the club levels just right. All of our efforts were worth it in the end, as operation today is painless. If you go to where Keller tells you to tune and turn on the mic—wham! It works every time. We’ve never had to make any frantic changes, game-day mischief, or need to re-tune. Everything just works flawlessly.”