Modernizing Cowtown with a Permanent Install

Sep 11, 2023

A Technology Upgrade

Cowtown Coliseum, a historic 3,418-seat arena located in Fort Worth, TX, recently underwent a transformation to enhance the entertainment experience for its visitors. The Coliseum is one of the oldest standing rodeo arenas in the United States and hosts over 200 rodeos a year. Originally known as Grand Coliseum when it opened in 1908, the venue also hosts local team sporting events and concerts. To meet the evolving demands of its audience, Cowtown Coliseum embarked on a project to upgrade its technology, including lighting fixtures and control, video displays, rigging systems, and audio/video infrastructure.

The upgrade initiative began when ASM Global, the managing company of the venue, collaborated with Gateway Studios & Production Services (Gateway) during the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) events. The relationship between ASM Global, Gateway, and Cowtown Coliseum was established through that initial partnership with PBR, which paved the way for the comprehensive facility upgrades. “We do quite a bit of work with ASM Global and the PBR as they are clients of ours,” says David Haskell, President of Business Development at Gateway. “We are their video vendor as well as having sold them lighting, audio, and rigging equipment.”

Gateway was an ideal choice as partner on the Cowtown project as they have a proven expertise with systems integration projects. When Cowtown Coliseum reached out to Gateway it was with a very aggressive timeline when they asked if they would be interested in taking on this systems integration project. “Of course, we took the challenge on and completed it,” says Haskell. “That involved refreshing their lighting system and control, rigging systems, installing all new LED screens, as well as all the cable and interconnectivity infrastructure for the entire facility.”

One of the key challenges faced during the project was ensuring that the historic nature of the building was preserved while integrating modern technology. Gateway collaborated closely with Cowtown Coliseum’s ownership, their partners at PBR, and Ft. Worth city executives to navigate the approval processes. They also wanted to ensure they maintained the delicate balance between preserving the venue’s historical significance and implementing state-of-the-art upgrades.

The project encompassed significant changes to the venue’s infrastructure, including swapping the positions of the video and front-of-house controls. Gateway seamlessly re-integrated cabling and implemented a phased approach that adhered to the venue’s budget requirements and time constraints. Another challenge of the project was that the facility remained open to the public throughout the process, with shows continuing over weekends. Gateway adapted to the complex schedule and worked diligently during off-hours to ensure the project was completed on time.

 Lighting Upgrade

For the lighting upgrades, Gateway provided new power distribution throughout the venue along with updating the lighting control to an MA Lighting grandMA3 console to allow for control of the newly added moving lights. “We upgraded the Coliseum from an ETC Expression to an MA3 console,” states Haskell. “We proposed a few different control options, but MA is a kind of a standard, and a lot of visiting LDs are all on MA.” Previously the Coliseum had no moving lights and, in this upgrade, Gateway added 24 ACME Lyra IP65 rated moving lights. Haskell explains that choice. “We chose the hybrid Lyras, for the feature set, the punch, and the price point, but also because they are IP65 rated. Let’s just say, it’s not the most pristine of environments in a dirt rodeo arena. The IP65 rating on the moving lights is very important when it comes to dirt and dust, which is an absolute given in a rodeo arena. You should see how our rental gear comes back from the PBR tours.”

To light the venue’s aisles, Gateway provided a number of CHAUVET LED ellipsoidal fixtures with shuttering capabilities. “All the LED ellipsoidals are hung and shuttered to just light the aisles and can be used for shows and rodeos but are also tied into the facilities battery backup systems for emergency egress situations,” describes Haskell. Gateway also provided a series of motors and trusses for rigging needs that would arise with productions.

 Video Display and Control Systems

Gateway worked in partnership with Red Dot Logics, one of the company’s integration partners, to handle the video display system upgrades, which consisted of 15 permanently installed video screens with a 5mm pixel pitch. “We went with Red Dot’s LED panel products for this project,” says Haskell. “It’s a custom-made product mainly for the resolution that they needed as well as the different sizes of the screens throughout the venue. Red Dot had the ability to make custom frames for the screens faster than any of the other companies who deal in permanent video display installations.”

Red Dot Logics also fabricated and installed custom data/signal/power cabling, custom power distribution panels, and custom signal patch panels for the project. “Basically, the building is hardwired for TV production trucks to pull up and patch right into the Coliseum’s production infrastructure,” explains Haskell. “We integrated in the new video systems with the existing scoring systems that the Coliseum had. Also, Gateway provided a pair of PIXERA media servers to feed the various video displays throughout the venue.” Cowtown Coliseum managed the audio upgrades in-house, which paired with the video updates created a comprehensive and synchronized audiovisual experience for visitors. The project replaced outdated equipment that had been in use for 10-15 years, bringing cutting-edge technology and a refreshed ambiance to the venue. Haskell notes, “There was a lot of custom integration work done to essentially get all that newer technology and older technology working together.”

 Gateway for Systems Integration Projects

Even though Gateway is a relatively new company, having formed in 2020, their staff have a long history of experience in live production and systems integration projects. “Systems integration is something that we are actively working in and expanding,” says Haskell. “We are a new company, but we’ve done larger installations. We feel that we are a good choice for people’s systems integration projects due to our deep experience with the live touring production industry, and that we have fantastic buying power. All the design side of what we do for systems integration is all in-house. That gives us the ability to pivot quickly and easily with our customers’ needs.”

Cowtown Coliseum now stands as a shining example of a historic venue that has seamlessly upgraded its facility with modern technology, creating a vibrant and captivating atmosphere for rodeos, sporting events, concerts, and more. Haskell expressed his satisfaction with the project, “We are incredibly proud to have played a role in the transformation of Cowtown Coliseum. This project represents a significant milestone in our ongoing commitment to delivering innovative audiovisual solutions that elevate the experiences of our clients and their audiences.”

This post originally appeared on PLSN