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Lincoln Financial Field & The Georgia Dome

Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, a facility that was indicative of the all-purpose stadium craze in the 1970's, was home to the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles for more than 30 years. Featuring an Astroturf playing surface that many athletes equated to playing on Interstate 95 painted green, as well as antiquated locker rooms and player amenities, "The Vet" badly needed to be replaced.

So on May 7, 2001, construction began on Lincoln Financial Field, a state-of-the-art, football-only stadium designed to set a new standard of excellence for NFL facilities. In order to complete such a Herculean task, the project would require construction experts such as SPL Integrated Solutions, which was responsible for installing the audio/video systems and cabling.

A veteran in the stadium integration business, SPL was hired to install the sound reinforcement system, the referee's microphone system, the coaches' replay system, sound reinforcement, the paging system for the locker rooms, the concourse television and audio systems, the broadcast cabling systems and the A/V systems for the suites, bars and restaurants. Knowing that they needed to meet the very high standards of the National Football League without margin for error, SPL turned to Gepco International, which provided an array of digital audio and video cables.

"The Linc" has a seating capacity of more than 68,000 and because of the well-distributed sound system and incredible sight lines, there is not a bad seat in the house. To make sure the sound experience matched the visual aspect, SPL needed Gepco's digital video, analog audio-twisted pair and camera cables, along with dozens of RP panels and hundreds of connectors. A total of 857,000 feet of Gepco cable was installed including its GA618GFC series multi-pair cable, as well as its VSD2001 and VT61811 highresolution video coax and triax in riser- and plenum-rated constructions.

"Lincoln Financial Field is a unique stadium because it is not a continuous bowl like The Vet and other stadiums, but instead it has open corners so that the fans can view the downtown Philadelphia area," says Fred Curdts, senior vice president of SPL. "As a result, the cable had to be laid down in a particular fashion, calling for much greater lengths. In addition, the loss characteristics of the cable needed to be low in order to be functional. We had to go with the Gepco cables, because if your wiring and cabling is faulty, that's the kind of thing that can put you out of business."

SPL was challenged to maintain the sight lines of the downtown area, so they couldn't connect the stadium corners with cabling. They had to actually get down to lowest levels without going all the way down to the ground. Because there were no continuous paths around the perimeter and upper levels of stadium, it made the cabling distances much greater in some places and it made the cable pull a lot harder.

The Linc employs a distributed audio system, with speakers spread around the field as opposed to being grouped in a central cluster in one end zone. A distributed system is more challenging in that one has to have physical structure for hanging speakers, making the canopy-less upper decks particularly difficult to fill with sound. In this case, the architect used the spires for flagpoles that the speakers were attached to, which made it a challenge for both the consultants and SPL to get equal coverage to all the seating. This also meant that longer cables would need to be stretched across the stadium, placing greater importance on the durability and flexibility of the Gepco cables.

"The precision electrical and mechanical specifications of Gepco HD coax ensure exceptional picture quality with a 3GHz bandwidth to allow for fully uncompressed digital HD video data," says Scott Fehl, products development manager of Gepco.

Fehl continues, "Many of the performance characteristics of Gepco HD video coax are due to the precision-drawn, pure copper conductor and crush resistant gas-injected dielectric. Our proprietary gas-injection process yields exceptionally uniform cell structure and conductor centering while lowering the high-frequency attenuation of the cable."

According to SPL, The Linc has a state-of-the-art broadcasting and sound system for High-Definition Television. "It's the first stadium that we've done that actually has HD distribution within the stadium," continues Curdts. "Meaning the cameras not only carry an HD signal out for broadcast, but also to the plasma televisions located throughout stadium on the concourses and in the suites. The fans can watch the games in High Definition at the stadium, and to my knowledge that's the first stadium that's done that."

SPL did an incredibly thorough job and was able to meet the August 3rd, 2003 deadline for the inaugural event, a soccer game between FC Barcelona and Manchester United. "All things considered," Gillenwater concludes. "Lincoln Financial Field is the most architecturally and operationally exceptional stadium we have had the opportunity to be involved with."

In addition to new facilities, many stadiums across the U.S. have been upgrading their infrastructures to provide spectators with more elaborate audio and video experiences, and the latest is The Georgia Dome. Home of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons, The Georgia Dome recently received an A/V makeover of their Production Suite, courtesy of Comprehensive Technical Group (CTG) and Gepco, which provided an array of digital audio and video cables.

"The venue's management wanted to upgrade the entire facility to digital even though some of the equipment was still going to remain analog," says Jim Wile, president and coowner of Comprehensive Technical Group. "We knew that the cabling we installed was not only going to exist for a long time, but would also be capable of passing analog, digital or even high-definition signals when that time came. We used Gepco products for this project with The Dome's future needs in mind."

The majority of the project focused on The Georgia Dome's control room, which feeds several hundred video monitors on three internal cable channels and acts as a "local" control room and interface for visiting broadcast trucks. The control room also provides a feed for each of the large-scale video screens at either end of the stadium.

"It's a much larger facility than you would imagine," Wile says. "It's primarily used for football, but it also hosts concerts and other events so there needed to be a great deal of flexibility to handle any type of event or media presentation. With so much equipment in such a tight space we needed cable that was easy to work with, flexible and could fit into a variety of small spaces."

Another key aspect of the cabling for The Georgia Dome was the capability for network broadcast trucks to be able to come in for an event and "plug and patch." Often, several trucks from different networks might be on-site to cover a game, so the ability to handle these various feeds was a huge factor.

To meet this project's requirements, CTG turned to Gepco's VPM2000 and VSD2001 cables. A total of 40,000 feet of Gepco cable was installed.

According to Fehl, "Ease of termination has always been a key attribute of Gepco cable. Both our audio and video cables feature flexible yet UL listed jackets that are easy to strip and terminate."

"Gepco makes great cable that is readily available, which gave us a big edge in this particular project," Wile says, adding that such an edge was critical, especially considering the project's tight 7-week window. The Georgia Dome needed to be ready for the kickoff of the Falcons' first 2003 pre-season game.

Using the Gepco cable, CTG's team was able to attack the project more quickly and efficiently, and to take advantage of every available feature in a given piece of gear.

"One of the handy things about Gepco is the standard size of their cable," says Wile. "Because of this, our tooling can be consistent and we don't need special tools. That's convenient for us - we don't have to take the extra time or expense to outfit our installer crews with separate tools."

Products provided by GEPCO include HD/SDI coax (VSD2001 and VPM2000), extended-distance permanent installation triax (VT61811), and Gep-Flex 22 gage multi-pair (GA618GFC series).

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