12 minute read

Coca-Cola Arena


Dubai, UAE

With touring acts and events including the

Middle East on the circuit more and more these days, it was only a matter of time before the region was in desperate need of a large, indoor venue that can be used all year round. Three years ago, DXB Entertainment and AEG Ogden Australia were instructed to build said venue for owner, MERAAS at City Walk, Dubai. After a relatively short build period for a project of this scope, the Coca-Cola Arena is now open and has hosted its first collection of events. The Coca-Cola Arena is the first and largest, fully airconditioned, multipurpose indoor arena in the Middle East. The design is based around the O2 Arena in London, UK, adopting a generic arena bowl layout with the stage at one end, although it is hugely versatile and the set-up of the bowl can be changed depending on the type of event at any given time. Along with touring productions, comedy gigs and exhibitions, the arena is also capable of hosting sporting events such as ice hockey, basketball and tennis, to name just a few. Director of Technical & Production at the Coca-Cola Arena, Malcolm Giles picks up the story: “We don’t have any dedicated sports equipment attached to the venue, but we do have the ability to host a number of sports, and the required floor is brought in. We have sufficient power, enough for a generator to cool an ice rink, for example. We also have draining ditches in place, so anything that requires water can be drained out.” Depending on the seating layout, up to 44-metres by 88-metres of floor space can be achieved. Sporting events that take place in the round - it’s not usual to set up a concert in the round - make use of the standard automated retractable seats, as well as some areas that have a demountable seating system. The seated capacity excluding the 42 hospitality suites, VIP suites and royal suites is 13,000 - although this is determined by the activity inside the venue - which increases by 1,400 when the hospitality areas are included. With standing included, the full arena can accommodate 17,000. Additionally, the arena has a horizontal and a vertical draping system, so more intimate sporting events or live gigs can also feel at home in the arena. Technology within the Coca-Cola Arena, whether it be audio, lighting or visual has been designed and installed with the future in mind, even the roof structure, as the rigging points and the roof weight are rather unique in a venue of this type. Malcolm continued: “All of the rigging is carried out from the catwalks, so there is no climbing, and no rope access. The rigging beams run the length of the catwalks at 4.8-metres apart, and rigging points are created by bridle method using SWR, and the apex of

bridle vary from 18-metres to 22-metres. In essence, the arena is very flexible in terms of rigging, and height wise it should more than cover most of the shows that are coming through. Weight wise we have 90 tonnes over the stage area, 60 tonnes in the middle and 40 tonnes at the far end. All three zones can be hung simultaneously, so the total roof weight is 190 metric tonnes.” Utilising some of that roof weight is the in-house PA system from JBL Professional. It is a fully functioning system that provides ample audio coverage for sporting events and end-stage concerts, however, it is common that any live touring production would bring in its own audio setup using preferred rider equipment. In that scenario, the JBL system is still used for PA/VA. The main PA comprises two hangs of JBL VTX A12’s, 18 boxes flown either side of the stage, plus two side hangs consisting of 12 cabinets. To provide low-end frequency, there are eight JBL VTX S28 subwoofers flown per side, and a further eight are groundstacked under the stage. The Coca-Cola Arena is among the first VTX A12 installations globally, and is the largest install of the new product series in the Middle Eastern region to date. According to the JBL website: ‘The VTX A12 was designed from scratch to address the unique challenges of rental companies, FOH engineers and tour sound production crews. Next-generation JBL transducer technology and a high-frequency waveguide design deliver unmatched performance, sensitivity and coverage’. In order to encourage the use of the in-house system at the arena, it was imperative that a high-performing system was specified that would be able to cater for a variety of applications. An extra, moveable support package is also available to clients using the arena. A further 12 JBL VTX A12 line array cabinets, as well as 24 JBL VTX S28 subwoofers can be temporarily installed to extend the permanent system,

should the client require it. “We then have six preset delay rings covering the upper tier using JBL’s VTX V20’s, which are permanently installed, and we have a small satellite system that covers sporting events,” Malcolm explained. Clients are not required to use any of the PA, however, the use of the venue’s rigging points are mandatory for any event taking place. The JBL PA is driven by Crown IT4x3500HD amplifiers connected via a Dante network and accessed via JBL’s Performance Manager - a software application that reduces design time, simplifies networking and automates control interface configuration. A BSS Soundweb London BLU-806DA processor is also integrated into the system, and is used when the bowl audio needs to be cut off to make an emergency announcement. A Meyer Sound Galaxy 816 processor is also available at FOH for access into the system and for touring EQ. And as far as communication goes, Malcolm added: “A lot of the communication between the stage positions and the control room are carried out in Riedel’s MediorNet. We’ve tried to make the venue very connection-friendly. From a broadcast point of view, we have 30 boxes around the arena that all route back to the broadcast room. Each box has two triax, two SMPTE, four fibre and two data connections, all running through the building.” Another element of technology that uses the rigging points is the LED screens. These are not permanently installed, as they can be configured in different ways depending on the application. For sporting games, the 140 sq metres of R4 4.8mm LED screens from local supplier, PIXCOM, form a scoreboard that is flown in the centre of the arena. The scoreboard is made up of eight pieces - four that measure 6.5-metres by four-metres and four at 2.5-metres by four-metres. However, if the arena is being used in end stage mode, the LED screens can be installed as required, using up to and


AUDIO: 48 x JBL VTX A12 line array cabinet; 48 x JBL VTX S28 subwoofers; 36 x JBL’s VTX V20 loudspeaker; Crown IT4x3500HD amplifiers; 1 x Meyer Sound Galaxy 816 processor; 1 x BSS Soundweb London BLU- 806DA processor; 1 x Riedel MediorNet system

LIGHTING: 191 x Ephesus Prism RGBA LED fixture; 74 x Ephesus Arena Pro Colour Tuneable fixture; 104 x Arena Luci 160 DMX LED Profile unit; 6 x Lycian M2 long-throw 2,500W spot; 1 x Zero 88 FLX console

LED DISPLAYS | DIGITAL SIGNAGE: 576 x PIXCOM R4 4.8mm LED screen panel; Tripleplay TripleTV platform with a combination of DVB-S/S2, HDMI and HD-SDI interface; Tripleplay TripleSign digital signage system; Tripleplay TripleCare management and monitoring system; Tripleplay low latency encoder; Tripleplay TripleVOD on demand video server; Tripleplay TripleChoice interactive themed user interface

including the 576 panels within the inventory. “For live events, the screens are often configured as IMAG screens,” continued Malcolm. “All of the equipment that is owned by the venue is to help our clients save money and time. Anything that is part of our inventory, we don’t charge for, we only charge installation costs.” Similarly for lighting, clients can make use of it as they wish. This element of the arena was delivered by Eaton Lighting Systems from the UK, through a collaboration with locally based, BMTC, a dealer of Eaton products in the Middle East region, which also took responsibility for the installation of the lighting fixtures and control systems within the venue. Much of the project needed to be procured from UK companies, because at least some of the investment secured by the venue’s owners, MERAAS, emanated from the UK, so a UK connection was necessary. Although Eaton Lighting Systems doesn’t have an exclusive distributor in the Middle East, it has worked on other MERAAS projects including Dubai Parks & Resorts, LEGOLAND Dubai, Riverland Dubai and City Walk 2 - a shopping mall in very close proximity to the arena. It was due to the latter that the local Eaton Lighting Systems team was invited to make a presentation to the design team for Coca-Cola Arena working in conjunction with DAR - then designer, architect and consultant for the project - and its subconsultant, NSW-based Webb Australia. Eaton Lighting Systems’ Project Manager, Peter Coles was involved from the design stage to the final delivery. The company was responsible for supplying the sports

and events lighting packages and control systems in line with the tender requirements, fulfilling the specifications through three Eaton brands - Ephesus for lighting fixtures, a lighting console from Zero 88 and iLight / Eaton for control and infrastructure. Peter takes up the story: “The tender stipulated that specific sports lighting criteria needed to be attained for lighting levels, which applied to both standards and lux that would also be TV / broadcast friendly. The team also wanted a solution that would enable the whole arena to become dynamic, and change colours and textures, so we chose 191 Ephesus Prism RGBA LED fixtures. These are positioned all over the venue so they can light it and the seating stands, plus surrounding elements for both sporting and non-sporting events, such as concerts.” “In-house lighting has been catered around RGB lighting. It allows us to produce an atmospheric colour wash for walk-ins and with it being LED it’s instantaneous. If it’s a gala dinner, the wash lighting is there, if it’s a concert, the LD can take the DMX feed and control the house lights as well,” Malcolm explained. Peter added: “Each light is individually controllable and can be used in different setups. In any situation, they can change colour in the upper, middle and lower tiers of seating and across the arena floor. This enables the arena being to be illuminated in a vibrant array of different configurations.” The 74 Ephesus Arena Pro Colour Tuneables that makeup the primary sports lighting package needed to be expandable to allow the arena to be used for multiple

sports events across large, medium or small sections of the venue. For the small section of the arena, the equipment had to meet the required lighting levels for tennis, basketball, volleyball, table tennis and badminton. This is provided by the Arena Pro Colour Tuneables. For the medium to large area, Eaton simply provided overlay points so that fixtures can be installed later, as and when the requirement arises. For lighting control, which not only looks after all the Eaton Lighting System fixtures, but also the 104 Arena Luci 160 DMX LED Profile units that are in place for the aisle lighting, a Zero 88 FLX console takes centre stage. There is also an architectural control system that facilitates controlling lights from the building management system, touchscreens located in the security room, the VOC room, or via an app for day-to-day operations. This can call up all the different settings including cleaning, load-in, working, special events and sports lighting. The main catwalk has an IP based DMX system running on a dedicated IP fibre network that enables control of all the sports and arena lighting either via the architectural control system, or via the in-house FLX lighting console. “FLX was selected for its intuitive and hands-on control of lighting and LED fixtures, which includes a touch monitor output for quick access to palettes / show overview,” Peter continued.

“The console is ultimately portable and hugely powerful with a small footprint. Free apps are available for wireless monitoring of the lighting rig, plus support for a range of networking accessories. Inbuilt tools include the awardwinning ‘RigSync’, helpful step-by-step ‘Guidance’, and ‘Auto Palettes’ to assist with the prep work. Colours can be quickly and accurately selected and applied via the multitouch ‘Colour & Image Picker’, the encoder wheels, or by selecting colours contained within ‘Mood Boards’ by LEE Filters.” Completing the lighting package are six Lycian M2 longthrow 2,500W spots and a movable platform that can be positioned according to the event mode. These, as well as all the other lighting fixtures are now the responsibility of Goran Salkovic, Head of Lighting, and his team at the arena. Another company with an existing relationship is Tripleplay, which has worked with AEG Ogden to provide IP television and digital signage to a number of its sites including Qudos Bank Arena, Cairns Conference Centre in Australia and the Hamburg and Mercedes Benz Arena’s in Germany. For the Coca-Cola Arena, Tripleplay was responsible for providing the software and hardware platform, as well as using its extensive experience in this sector to advise on where to install screens, what type of screens to use

and general knowledge on how to maximise the user and commercial experience in the stadium. Amer Alzaiem, Tripleplay’s Regional Director for Middle East said: “The platform provided by Tripleplay had to have the ability to provide engaging content for visitors to the arena, provide commercial opportunities, promote forthcoming events, as well as provide transport and weather information. In addition, the ability to live stream the events taking place to defined sections of the arena and the VIP suites was an important requirement. With the VIP boxes, guests have the ability to watch live streams with sub-second responses, live television channels and find information about the event through their interactive portal. “We also managed to integrate a wide range of third party systems including the fire alarm, EPOS and scoreboard, that obviously helped to add more value to the system operation and performance.” The Tripleplay products that have been installed at the arena include TripleTV for IPTV, TripleSign for digital signage, TripleCare for management and monitoring and a range of HD and 4k players behind the screens. The company deployed its event engine to manage moments of exclusivity and provide complete control of the screens to ensure they are being managed efficiently and meeting the environmental requirements for the site. Content, live streams and management is controlled centrally through redundant servers that provide hot standby resilience. Monitoring the system and application is constant and if there is an issue, it is able to switch over

to the redundant server without a loss in service. This high availability provides a unique level of reliability for such a prestigious site. Behind each screen is a player, which is controlled by the central servers that deliver either live TV streams or multi-media content combined with live or stored video and data. If there is a loss in the connection to the server, the players are able to use stored local content so there are no blank screens. Content is zoned to ensure the right messages and material go to the right parts of the venue. Tripleplay’s CEO, Steve Rickless said of the install: “One of the main strengths of Tripleplay’s product range is its ability to interface with different third party systems. Through its BacNet interface it is able to link into the building management system and allow content to react based on information provided in real-time about the building such as a fire alarm going off. The ability to provide digital menu boards and dynamic pricing is provided through its electronic point of sales interface, giving the arena complete flexibility in what products to offer at what events. Other interfaces include the ability to get live data from the internet for transport, weather or news.” With so much technology packed into one space, and with nothing else like it in the region, it won’t come as a surprise to know that the arena is already starting to get booked up. The need for an indoor venue capable of hosting sports, as well as concerts to avoid the hot and humid conditions outside, has existed for a long time, and it has finally been delivered to spectacular effect.