Minneapolis Convention Center

The Minneapolis Convention Center space and the wide range of events it hosts demand an extreme level of flexibility, including in its sound provision. Addressing this, a tight budget and complications inherent in any government job, Milwaukee-based Clearwing Productions recently providsed the venue with a large system centred on L-Acoustics Kara and Kiva.

‘While the system was specified specifically for the main auditorium, we knew from the beginning that pieces of the main system would be in a near-constant state of motion between the venue’s meeting rooms and ballrooms, in addition to the auditorium,’ says Clearwing’s Kerry Miller, who worked closely with the convention centre audio staff.

One of the greatest challenges came with the budgeting process: ‘The convention centre is owned by the city of Minneapolis, and understanding how to present the system and its costs in a way that made sense to the municipal officers charged with minding the budget was a huge part of the success of this project,’ Miller notes.

Minneapolis Convention Center

Beyond the multiple rooms typical of a convention centre, the auditorium itself morphs. There are three circular areas spread across the back of the main room, each with self-contained seating the same as that provided throughout the main seating area. Each of those areas can be used as a separate room or, when the entire space is added together, it can hold close to 3,500 people for events ranging from concerts to corporate presentations and conventions.

The venue hosts a wide range of events, and ‘the cities,’ as locals call the St Paul/Minneapolis area, has a unique production culture. ‘There are a lot of ex-touring guys in the cities,’ says Miller. ‘They may have gone on the road to get out of town when they were younger, but when they decide it’s time to get off the road, a good percentage seem to come back home.’ That means a pre-existing pool of pros that are familiar with working with L-Acoustics systems is available to draw on for almost every show that the convention centre hosts.

The system may have been budgeted for the auditorium, but pieces of it may be used in multiple parts of the building on any given day – and still maintain a consistent sonic signature was a big part of the choice of Kara and Kiva. ‘Even after direct shootouts against a couple of other highly regarded brands, the choice to go with L-Acoustics was in some important ways more the beginning of the process than it was a final choice,’ Miller says.

As is increasingly the case in the world of high-end audio installs, it was all about ROI. Clearwing Productions is accustomed to keeping that kind of data in mind when designing systems, but the process at the Minneapolis Convention Center was more complex. ‘Going with Kiva and Kara was a terrific option in terms of sound quality, logistics and overall flexibility. We can treat it like audio Lego blocks. The sonic signature across the L-Acoustics family is so consistent that we can deploy what is best for the room and the event in terms of coverage and never have to compromise on audio quality.’

The complication when showing a good ROI was that none of that flexibility could be considered as factors. ‘The job – and the budget – was for a system specifically designed for and deployed within the auditorium. All of us knew that various parts of the system would be deployed throughout the various parts of the convention centre, but we couldn’t budget to maximize that.’ In fact, the challenge was to get as many mobile elements as possible into an install that was ostensibly for a fixed venue. To that end, designers and audio crew at the convention centre opted to power the system with six LA-Rak touring racks each containing three LA8 amplified controllers backed up by five more LA4X amplified controllers housed in L-Cases.

The rest of the system includes 42 Kara enclosures plus 24 Kiva and 12 ARCS II, six of which are installed as a centre cluster for when the auditorium space is being used as a single room. The remaining ARCS plus eight self-powered 108P cabinets see ‘fill’ work of every imaginable type, while eight SB18 subs flown in two cardioid arrays deliver tight and solid low end.

‘The auditorium can be carved up into some challenging sonic slices. So, even though we had to be creative in specifying those for what is, on paper, a fixed install, they are important to the success of the overall system. And we never have to worry that a room will sound different or somehow compromised. It’s a “fixed” system that just happens to get moved around a lot.’

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