Springfield’s Park Central Square is steeped in history. Wild Bill Hickok’s famous July 1865 gunfight with gambler Davis Tutt occurred on this square-one of the few recorded instances in the Old West of a one-on-one pistol fast-draw duel in a public place. Legendary U.S. Route 66 is said to have begun here in 1926. By then, the Fox Theatre, then the Electric Theatre had been operating on Park Central Square for ten years. Except for an extended renovation after back-to-back fires in 1946, the Fox continued operating until 1982. It was a church from 1985 to 2014, when the History Museum on the Square took over the building and began renovations.
While it was important to preserve the building’s historic features, the History Museum staff also wanted to take advantage of modern video and audio technology. To that end, they tapped Springfield AV engineering and automation firm Sensory Integration Audio Visual which designed and installed a new video-enabled marquee and equipped it with a Renkus-Heinz IC Live audio system.
“The marquee project was unusual because in order to use tax credits for historic buildings, it had to meet requirements for look and feel,” notes Sensory Integration owner Darrin Smith. “One of the unique pieces is a large LED screen that can mock the original plastic-letter-based marquee but can display video as well. The building has a large sidewalk and gathering area in front, as it did originally and the History Museum staff wanted to show historic videos, like the Route 66 videos that were played in the past, in order to draw people to the square and the museum.”
Darrin’s team faced challenges that required technology as special as the project. “Since the square is a community gathering place, the City of Springfield has an elevator-type music system that goes on during the day and plays announcements and such,” he observes. “So the city asked that when we’re projecting sound onto the patio area, we keep it very tight. We couldn’t have more than 40 or 50 dB SPL past the sidewalk. But when we’re supplying sound for events on the square which is roughly 600 by 600 ft, we’re allowed to cover the entire width down below the marquee and then all the way across the entire diagonal of the square, a little more than an 800 ft throw.”
The museum’s owner, of course, wanted high quality music and clearly intelligible speech. “We also needed an automation system that allowed the owner to quickly change between the local, very steered-down beam to the multiple-beam application all the way across the square,” adds Darrin. “Furthermore, the LED marquee had to be the exact size of the original plastic marquee. The marquee is very thin and the LED screen only had a few inches on either side.” That wasn’t much space for a high-quality loudspeaker.
For Darrin, there was only one solution. “We chose the Renkus-Heinz IC Live for its steerable beams, sound quality and ability to fit into the small area that we had to the right of the LED screen,” he asserts. “No other technology allowed us to fit a system into that box and create the beams and the presets we needed. We steered a single beam very tightly right in front of the marquee and to the street edge and once you’ve crossed the street, the sound dies out. That’s Preset 1. Preset 2 fills the entire square with multiple beams.”
It helped that Renkus-Heinz was willing to send someone in to demo the IC Live for the client. “We were able to test the loudspeaker before the marquee ever went up and then
the product became part of the engineering process for the sign company, the LED company, and us,” recounts Darrin. “On the first day, the owner was very worried about
the sound, so he walked around while we played music. He was very impressed that he could hear the sound clearly as he walked the edges of the square and then walked straight up the middle of the diagonal of the square. He was able to intelligibly hear music and speech throughout the entire footprint.”
Designing and installing a system for a specialised application like the Fox Theatre is a lot easier when you have the right partners, Darrin concludes. “Having Renkus-Heinz as a partner allowed us to create a great solution for our client. Their engineers and the local rep helped us through the entire process, from the sale to the commissioning which is rare in our industry. Most important, the Renkus-Heinz IC Live system is a great product that met and exceeded every expectation.”