Somber Ceremony Pays Respect to Outdated AV Before Celebrating Its Replacement

Big Bertha, Rupp Arena’s enormous 39-year-old, 20-foot-long sound system is being replaced by a Daktronics center-hung scoreboard with LED viewing screens and a new sound system.

It’s safe to say that when it comes to getting rid of old technology and replacing it with new technology, most people are pretty happy about it.

It’s also safe to say that most people don’t hold retirement parties for old technology.

But, of course, there are always some exceptions.

The Lexington Herald-Leader recently reported that “Big Bertha”, Rupp Arena’s enormous 39-year-old, 20-foot-long sound system was taken down during a private ceremony attended by dozens of current and former Rupp staff members, including Big Bertha’s designer, Merrill Richardson.

Without access to computer modeling back in 1976, Richardson, director of facilities administration, designed Big Bertha using scale models.

Big Bertha by the numbers: 
Source: Lexington Herald-Leader

  • 20 feet tall
  • 12,000 pounds
  • 22 feet wide at its widest point
  • 66 Altec horns make up speaker cluster
  • Hangs 43 feet above the floor

“A scale model built of Bertha was set up in a scale model of Rupp Arena,” said Bill Owen, president and CEO of Lexington Center Corp., in the article.

“The designers took a flashlight and shined through the horns to make sure that every seat gets an even sound level. I don’t know of another building 39 years old that has its original PA system. There may be one out there, but I don’t know about it. It’s a tribute to Merrill and his ingenuity, and his ability to design a system that is going to deliver 100 decibels of sound to every seat in this place.”

According to the article, Big Bertha will take crews more than a day to dismantle.

Also See: Sports Stadiums Up Their Game With Innovative Digital Display Technology

Big Bertha will be replaced by a new, center-hung scoreboard with LED viewing screens on all four sides. A flexible new sound system will be installed with the new scoreboard and will have the ability to deliver higher-quality sound that can change depending on the event. Made by Daktronics, the new scoreboard will arrive in September and will take over a month to build and install.

While Bertha was once state-of-the-art, the advancement of technology over the past 39 years eventually sent it into retirement, but Richardson isn’t too upset.

“I am thankful that we are replacing it and getting a better system,” said Richardson in the article. “They said you couldn’t put 100 decibels to every seat in the house, and we proved them wrong.”

The new scoreboard is expected to be in full operation by the start of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball season.

Watch the video below from the Lexington Herald-Leader to see the last lowering of Big Bertha at Rupp Arena.