Wisconsin Center, Milwaukee, WI United States
With nearly 190,000 square feet of exhibit space and an adjoining 37,500 square foot ballroom in downtown Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Center hosts all types of events, from high-profile auto and trade shows to corporate meetings and weddings. Established in 1998, the Wisconsin Center has taken pride in providing the latest in teleconferencing, digital signage, data transmission, and audio/visual technology.
The Wisconsin Center connects to the Hilton and Hyatt hotels via skywalks, and the Milwaukee Theater provides additional assembly space right across the street. The Wisconsin Center District (WCD), which manages both premier venues, is dedicated to providing a first-rate convention and exposition experience.
In 2014, the WCD decided to upgrade the professional audio capabilities that the Wisconsin Center had relied on since it opened. “Audio conferencing and networking have dramatically advanced over the years. The WCD commissioned us to upgrade their aging audio networking venue-wide, and bring its capabilities into the 21st century,” said Keith Anderson, Director of Operations for Metro Sound & Video, a professional systems integration company, in New Berlin, Wisconsin.
The biggest challenge was time. With virtually constant corporate events, trade shows, conventions and special occasions, closing its doors for any period of time isn’t something the Wisconsin Center can do without hurting the bottom line.
Since this audio upgrade was deemed vital to current and future operations, the facility closed for one month, allowing Metro Sound & Video team access to perform the design, installation and testing of the new digital audio system in four short weeks.
The main Expo Hall is comprised of four very large rooms with a giant concrete floor, a large three-space ballroom for more formal events and a series of smaller meeting rooms that can be combined as needed.
“We needed to create a unified system where all of these rooms could talk to each other—or choose not to talk to each other—without requiring an inordinate amount of reconfiguration,” Anderson said. “While we used some of the existing audio infrastructure, we essentially needed to start from scratch and had just one month to get this enormous job done.”
To enable a multichannel transport system capable of presentation audio, zoned communications and announcements, Metro Sound & Video chose to install Audinate’s Dante digital audio networking solution. Dante leverages a standard IT LAN venue-wide, which made deployment made very cost-efficient and easy to deploy. Dante proved up to the challenge of supporting multiple audio applications, offering rapid deployment and a framework for future growth.
The Dante-compliant Symetrix SymNet Radius multi-room digital signal processor was added to support audio routing, intelligent control and paging. This centralized processing chain supports the audio needs of every part of the facility. Each room feeds an auto mixer with local microphone jacks, allowing users to recall dedicated presets. This comes in especially handy for auto shows, where the user can hit one button and have the audio from a single mic reach every area of the facility, including the loading dock.
The Symetrix architecture also includes Symetrix ARC-2e wall panels that accommodate volume control and presets. Since these settings are adjustable via a smartphone, tablet or laptop, it’s now possible make adjustments—such as turning up a microphone or adjusting the volume of a monitor for a presentation—from remote locations.
“We literally plugged the Dante audio flows into our off-the-shelf network switch, hit download in the SymNet software, and it just worked,” Anderson said. “There were no drops in the audio path, no interruptions or stuttering. There’s no more need to reconfigure patch panels to route audio, or run around the building making adjustments because it can all be easily done from a single computer screen.”
The new Dante audio network has streamlined the entire audio workflow at the Wisconsin Center. And, “Dante easily saved at least 400 hours of labor over the project duration,” Anderson said. “Compared to competing technologies like CobraNet, there was no way to achieve this level of digital audio routing and flexible networking. Dante allowed us to push audio in many directions, and uniquely supported the capacity we needed.”
In the next five years, there are plans to build a new Milwaukee Bucks arena close to the Wisconsin Center, and to double the Wisconsin Center’s exhibition and convention space. “It’s possible that this new future expansion will spur the need to further upgrade the digital audio networking capabilities,” Anderson said.
“Whenever we finish any job,” he added, “Our goal is to leave a fully functioning, reliable audio system in place so that the only reason we have to return to the venue is to help expand it. Dante helps us meet this goal because it’s rock solid and frankly, it just keeps working.”
Benefits and Savings
- Implementation of a multichannel transport system capable of efficiently carrying digital audio signals throughout the Wisconsin Center
- Support for presentation audio, zoned communications, paging and announcements venue-wide
- Accelerated deployment saved labor costs and minimized downtime for the busy facility
- Centralized routing of signals and adjustments of networked equipment using iPads and other portable, connected devices
- Works with off-the-shelf IT network switches
- Continuous, flawless operation and rock-solid reliability from day-one