Ford Field hosts the National Football League’s Detroit Lions as well as many other large-scale concerts and special events. Construction was completed in 2002, with seating for 65,000 football fans plus additional seating on the field surface for other events. By late 2015, stadium management had determined that a complete refurbishment of stadium amenities was in order, including essentially all AV systems. With a budget of over $100 million and scheduled for completion in August of 2017, the project also included updates to the suites and premium club areas.
The new audio system addressed shortcomings that had plagued the original installation. Speech intelligibility and music power had suffered over the years, a situation reflected in complaints from fans in surveys and focus groups. Coaches and front office staff complained that they could not understand officials’ calls on the field. Troubleshooting the old system was problematic as there was no comprehensive, computer-based diagnostic monitoring. In addition, there was no coverage on the playing field – highly desirable to pump up players in warmups. Rental systems were needed to cover the field for special events in the off season.
To remedy these shortcomings and boost performance to league-leading levels, stadium management engaged the acoustical consulting firm of Wrightson, Johnson Haddon & Williams. Based on their recommendations and on-site trials, the Lions’ management selected a LEO Family system from Meyer Sound – the first in any NFL stadium. The new system possesses the wide dynamic range required to deliver clean, uncompressed and undistorted sound even during bursts of peak ambient crowd noise. Because the voice characteristics remain clear and natural, intelligibility remains high without sounding annoyingly loud. Extended dynamic range also enables greater flexibility in programming music and effects for climactic moments as the sound doesn’t have to be heavily compressed to prevent system overload.
The main system is anchored by a distributed ring of eight LEO Family line arrays, with a total of 100 LEO and LYON self-powered loudspeakers covering most seating areas. Scoreboard delay arrays and corner fill arrays comprise an additional total of 36 LEOPARD compact linear loudspeakers. For deep bass music and commanding special effects, 24 1100-LFC low-frequency control units are deployed as cardioid arrays to provide directional control for convincing impact both in the bowl and – when a special preset is selected – also on the playing field. A separately addressable system of 18 LEOPARD loudspeakers blankets the playing field with high-level sound.
Outside the main bowl, in the acoustically problematic atriums at gates A and G, audio is delivered by pairs of Meyer Sound CAL column array loudspeakers with advanced beam steering technology, enabling precise control to minimize reflections from the expanses of glass and metal.
Parsons Electric of Minneapolis, Minnesota installed the audio systems in a contract that also included upgrades to the broadcast cable system as well as all back-of-house AV on concourses and in atriums.
Under a separate contract, Daktronics provided a video system with more than 26,000 square feet of displays, including new end zone screens measuring 39.5 feet high by 152 feet wide and featuring a 13HD pixel layout for crisp imagery and wide-angle visibility. Four additional displays measuring 13 feet high by 59 feet wide can be used individually or coordinated with the main displays for one continuous 270-foot display. Also installed were two super column displays measuring, three large ribbon displays along the fascia, and an additional four ribbon displays along the seating for a total of more than 5,000 linear feet of displays.