During the development of StadiumMK for new football team MK Dons, MK Dons Chairman Pete Winkelman says that he has always been conscious that the venue must contribute to a great spectator experience in order to establish the team with fans. MK Dons is working to build the fan base, a third of which is under 16 years old, as the city of Milton Keynes grows from a population of 250,000 to 380,000 over the next 10 years.
As Managing Director of Inter MK, Winkelman has developed a retail park next door to the stadium to finance what he calls ”big sport” to match the ambitions of the new city. The city has recognised Winkelman’s passion and the two have worked in partnership to deliver the stadium, an integrated hotel and a 4,000 capacity arena
Winkelman recommends the phased development approach:
We haven’t compromised on anything along the way.
At StadiumMK, the management team is using the LED screen and sound system to entertain fans in sophisticated ways that support the StadiumMK brand, help the team and, says Winkelman:
attract fans out of their lounges and into the stadium.
Winkelman’s music industry background – as an executive for CBS and now a recording studio boss – has naturally influenced the entertainment values at StadiumMK. Already the stadium has a close relationship with sponsor Marshall, whose guitar speaker stacks sit either side of the big screen, and the publicity talks about ‘rocking’ the stadium.
MK Dons Executive Director Sue Dawson sums up the challenge:
We had to mix the statutory requirements for safety and Pete’s ideal sound system.
Winkelman called upon long-time friend in music Big Mick Hughes, sound engineer with Metallica. Hughes recommended Meyer Sound equipment and the installed system sounds remarkable, like a really good home sound system and unlike the muddy and unintelligible audio regretfully heard in many stadiums.
StadiumMK called upon VCP Services, the company responsible for the life safety systems such as disabled refuge points and alarms, to adapt the Meyer equipment to the stadium. The Meyer speakers, including bass bins, contain their own amplifier and the first job was to ensure the roof mountings could support the weight. VCP put the sockets powering the speakers on the universal power supply (UPS) so that they remain available for emergency announcements during a power outage.
Lee Scriven, matchday production manager and all-round media guy, controls the sound system from a Yamaha deck in a studio at the top of the main stand next door to the police and safety control room. He works alongside a colleague putting graphics on the big screen and a DJ, who comes in ten minutes before kick-off and works the crowd. Presenters, with wireless microphones, and cameramen, work in the studio and out on the field. This season there will be more cameramen to put crowd pictures on the big screen and to provide live Internet broadcast.
Scriven has found it best to work from the big screen as far as music is concerned. Video and sound output have been synchronised and he says live DVDs work very well, crediting Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen and Stereophonics. He says
We spend a lot of time discussing the type of music we want to be known for. The production team doesn’t use traditional football tunes because MK Dons are a newly formed team without that tradition. It prefers to choose music from bands that are associated with away teams, for example Kaiser Chiefs for Leeds and Dr Feelgood for Southend. Scriven says he likes to see the away fans’ surprised reaction and thinks they appreciate the attention to detail.
The club now uses a live presenter on pitch and has staged a live ‘rock-off’ with a Nintendo Wii running Guitar Hero connected to the big screen.
VCP’s Shane Nedley adds:
You’d be surprised how many times we have to go back and replace blown speakers when the wrong type of system has been installed. This sound system can go on forever with the right maintenance.
StadiumMK worked with the Hilton Group to open its hotel and architect Populous integrated it into the stadium, using the corporate boxes as bedrooms. Main reception, with stairways curving around a central core, is dual-purpose, hotel and stadium. Flexible spaces can act as hotel bars and restaurants as well as function rooms and pre- match dining areas. VCP has installed a Yamaha sound system for the ballrooms and video will be piped to big screens in hotel rooms/boxes with concourse screens planned for the future.