For two weeks in late August, the small town of Williamsport, PA is put on the national stage. This year, millions of fans tuned in to watch the Little League Baseball World Series (LLBWS), which features the top 16 teams of 11- and 12-year olds winnowed from more than 160,000 teams around the globe.
The games are played at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. It was built in 1959 and holds more than 45,000 people, with an extra 25,000 on the “hill” surrounding the outfield wall.
With so many eyes and ears tuned into the LLBWS, the sounds of the stadium now occupy a critical place in the two-week spectacle. This includes the public address system, play-by-play announcements, the national anthem and the music playing when players come to bat and teams take the field. Recently, the LLBWS took an important step in its evolution by vastly upgrading its audio system.
A New Solution
The Robert M. Sides Family Music Centers originally provided a new audio solution for the LLBWS in 1999.
“Since we started working with the LLBWS, the popularity of the event has increased dramatically,” Sides says. “With all games now being televised, the LLBWS has exploded into the mainstream.”
After working with another consultant to produce a spec design, the LLBWS returned to RM Sides two years ago needing a significant audio system upgrade.
“We mostly agreed with what was on the spec,” Sides says. “But there was some gear included that we didn’t sell directly and weren’t as familiar with. We have a great track record with HARMAN‘S Professional JBL loudspeakers and Crown amplifiers, so we asked Little League if we could amend the proposal to include those brands, confident that JBL and Crown would ensure long usage and good coverage. Little League agreed.”
Dewey Corage is a sound system engineer at RM Sides. He was responsible for ensuring the LLBWS installation went smoothly and says that a primary concern for the LLBWS was dependability.
“With eyes from a global audience on the LLBWS for two weeks in August, and with the audio system running 18 hours each day, reliability is at an absolute premium.”
Corage added that the increasing popularity of the LLBWS means having a system that produces intelligible sound was a critical need.
“The LLBWS crowd grows every year,” Corage says. “With the previous system, there would eventually be a risk of the crowd noise drowning out the announcers. What we wanted first and foremost was to have the announcers be heard and be heard intelligibly, and that led us to JBL, which we have extensive experience with.”
Corage says RM Sides preferred controlled, distributed sound, which JBL speakers provide, as opposed to sound that gets blared from a couple of strategic points. JBL speakers allow every fan in the stands to hear the same thing.
HARMAN and the LLBWS: A Good Fit
Lamade Stadium is a roof-covered building. On the lip of the roof, RMS Sides installed JBL AM5212 speakers, which have a wide coverage angle and vertically suit the stadium seating. RM Sides also installed JBL AC 2895’s as delays behind the main speakers.
In addition, RMS Sides installed six sub-woofers to add a bass-heavy sound. Corage says that the LLBWS plays a lot of music before, during, and after games, and they wanted high-quality sound.
The JBL’s are paired with a pair of Crown DCi4/1250 amplifiers in the lower and sub-level seating and Crown DCi4/600 amps in the upper Level. The large concourse behind the stadium was covered with JBL ACW 129 speakers and a pair of DCi8/300 amps. For centralized control, LLBWS manages the entire system with a BSS Sound Web London BLU 100.
“The LLBWS wanted a function where they could manage security in one place,” Corage says. “They wanted single push-button ability that could turn off everything except the security microphone. The BLU met this need. It also takes care of speaker equalization, delays, and multiple inputs from different sources. It’s really the brain of the system.”
In addition to installation, Corage says he is on hand for the first two days of the tournament as well as the last day in case any issues arise. He is also on call for the entire two weeks of the tournament. For the LLBWS, it’s a comfort to know that should a problem arise, RM Sides is just a mile down the road.
The new audio system was installed last spring, and RM Sides says the LLBWS has been extremely pleased with the upgrade.
“The LLBWS is about entertaining and educating kids, parents and sports fans in a fun, family setting,” Sides says. “It’s a huge undertaking for days at a time with thousands and thousands of attendees. The less the organizers have to worry about things like sound, the better. A system based on JBL and Crown means the LLBWS can be confident that the people in the stands and those watching on TV are hearing a quality product.”