At a Jan. 22 council meeting, Mayor Prokop moved that council direct administration to research options for replacing or enhancing the current sound system in the Taber Community Centre arena and main auditorium and report back to council with feasibility and cost options.

Council revisited the item at their May 27 regular meeting. Town CAO Derrin Thibault reported that though the standing item request was singular, administration decided to divide it into two pieces –the auditorium and the arena. Recreation Manager Brian Martin told council that upgrades have been done to the system in the auditorium in recent years and those upgrades are still considered recent technology. 

“One of the largest challenges was the number of hard surfaces in the room. Echoing is difficult to combat in that area. As was noted, I attached the acoustic modelling to the RFD from the company that did the work on it.” 

He said the sound is directed toward the centre of the floor. Groups or deejays that have rented the building and brought in their own speaker systems have reported good sound in the auditorium given the fact that they can place their speakers in optimal locations. Martin suggested that one solution would be to purchase a portable system. 

A second solution would be to install a locking touchscreen mixer that could be preset by a sound engineer, thereby avoiding the “monkeying around” with the mix levels on an analog mixer. The third and most expensive option would be a full system replacement with the speakers mounted at intervals around the inside perimeter of the room.

Martin said that renters bring in their own systems for six to eight events per year and the other renters use the in-house system as it is. Additionally, not all events have the same requirements for sound quality (ie. music vs. speaking). Coun. Sorensen wanted to know if renters running music festivals or cabarets would continue to bring in their own systems even if the Town replaced and reconfigured their own system. Martin said that those renters would probably continue to do so due to the familiarity with their own equipment.

Referring to the proposals and numbers in the agenda, Thibault said, “This doesn’t really show that everyone’s bringing in their own system, but what it does show is that when they use our system, we get complaints coming in our direction.”

Coun. Brewin asked Martin if option one would be sufficient and said that he would prefer to put more money into the arena’s system than the auditorium’s. Martin told him that option one – portable speakers — would involve placing the speakers on mounts in the four corners and it would offer a more even distribution of sound than the current ceiling cluster.

The options generated quite a bit of discussion and each member either offered an opinion or asked follow-up questions. Coun. Sorensen took the lead and made a motion that council direct administration to go forward with a portable sound system at a cost not to exceed $4,000 excluding GST from the current operating budget. Council voted unanimously in favour of it.

Council then moved into a discussion about the arena sound system. Martin told council that AV consultations for the arena were more complex than for the auditorium. He said the arena is a bowl with all hard surfaces (no acoustic panels), though many of the existing system components were high-quality, current technology. This fact would enable the Town to upgrade the system without replacing every component. Alternatively, configuration adjustments could be made to the current system to improve the sound in the corners of the arena. Hiring a sound engineer to give a documented full inspection of the current system would cost $2,880. In addition, consultants gave the Town an estimate of more than $250,000 to install sound baffles and acoustic texturing on the walls and ceiling. The option of upgrading some of the out-of-date components was in play, as was the option of replacing the entire system.

Coun. Bekkering said, “It seems to me that whether we go option one or two, or a combination of both, would inevitably lead to a recommendation to spend $250,000 (to install baffles). There’s no doubt in my mind about that, so that’s what we have to discuss.”

Mayor Prokop expressed concern about any option that would simply be a “Band-Aid” resulting in a return to the table to discuss the same problem again in the near future. 

“We make so much use of these facilities; it’s a real Achilles’ heel. I guess we’re looking for the best advice possible, because we get so many complaints so many times.”

Coun. Remfert is involved in minor hockey and said he’s visited many arenas. He believes Taber has one of the finer facilities in the region, but added, “The sound does not compare to how nice the rink is.”

“Tough decision here,” the mayor said.

“How much are we willing to spend?” Brewin asked. “Where does it end on this?”

Council deferred to Martin and the information he had gathered. Remfert offered that he would be most comfortable spending $2,880 on a professional inspection in hopes that it would result in a defined number that council could then grapple with. 

“It’s all going to add up quickly, in my calculation, to $350,000 to $400,000,” he said, after considering all the options. “I’m willing to make a motion to spend the $2,880 and then go from there, but I hope we’re not just wasting it. But you know, we do have a real nice arena.”

He made a motion for council to direct administration to proceed with a system analysis by a sound engineer to be funded from operational reserves at a cost not to exceed $2,880 excluding GST. It was carried unanimously.

By Cal Braid, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Original Published on Jun 10, 2024 at 09:19lji-alta-taber-arena-sound-system

This item reprinted with permission from   The Taber Times   Taber, Alberta

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