New arenas and entertainment venues are popping up all across the country. Each new arena is uniquely designed, with its’ own nuisances and personality. Most newly built arenas provide interactive technology, are energy efficient or sustainable, and even include an indoor – outdoor experience. All are tailored to meet the needs of thousands of concert goers and are host to the largest concerts and performances in the entertainment industry.
As the former Director of Engineering for the Golden 1 Center Arena, I’ve managed arena engineering operations for some of the world’s largest acts — from Bon Jovi to Kanye West. Glitches, hiccups, power snafu’s and break-down in communications are all apart of operating and maintaining new arenas.
While every concert set up is different for a new arena or venue; show power is the most critical element in making sure a concert runs smoothly. Show power is a sports and entertainment designation for the electrical distribution grid that powers all of the “cool stuff” that is needed to put on a major concert at a new arena or venue. Lights, cameras, sounds, lasers, audio visual, hoist, etc are all important elements of show power and putting together a plan of action to address each element is important. So, if you’re a novice or experienced stationary engineer, electrical or lighting technician, or simply want tips and tools to ensure your concert runs smoothly in your new arena, follow these 5 simple guidelines to concert show power setup.
1. Develop a show power check-list
Email the shows production team a Show Power Electrical Checklist, at least a week before they arrive. This will ensure all parties are aware and have confirmed what power is available for the show. The most important metrics on the checklist are the amperes or amps (a unit for measuring the rate at which electric current flows) and number of connections available. Remember the start-up amps (the electrical current needed to get a device up to operating speed), may be greater than the normal running amps (the electrical current needed to maintain a device at operating speed); so take this into careful consideration, or you may find yourself tripping breakers when attempting to start a piece of equipment, even though the normal running amps may be within your threshold. A rule of thumb: try and keep the normal running amps at 75% of your load capacity.
Don’t worry if you haven’t developed a list, click here to download our Show Power Checklist.
2. Dedicate time to mapping out show power locations
The location of the show power connection in relation to the stage is also important, and should be provided to the production team ahead of time. Determining whether the power is going to be stage left, stage right, or in the loading dock will directly impact the length and location of the cable runs. Additional cable and longer lengths means more material and International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE ) manpower. Why is mapping out shower power locations so important? Short answer, not knowing can directly effect the arena’s bottom line, when the event manager settles with the shows production manager at the end of an event; there will be some sticker shock if someone failed to plan ahead.
3. Know your show power load requirements
Inevitably there will be events that have unique power requirements which exceed the capacity of the arena. For example, Disney On Ice is a fantastic production, but the three day ice making process requires the use of temporary chillers. These chillers typically draw power over the 400 amp threshold, and you will be happy if your engineering consultants, were able to work in a 1000 amp connection during the planning phase of your new arena.
Also, ask if additional equipment is needed. Many production managers will request an independent grounding bar for the show power panel that feeds the audio equipment. Having a sound system on a common ground with other equipment can cause some pretty embarrassing feedback noises, just as your superstar singer is hitting a high note.
Tip #1 For new arenas or venues looking to host the worlds largest concert acts (Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, etc); the show powered required generally ranges from 3000 amps – 4000 amps @ 208 volts. Power in excess of this usually requires large mobile generators, which the show production team normally provides. In the instance where they do not have generators available, make sure your engineering staff has a local generator distributor on speed dial.
4. Before you modify, check with a certified electrician
If you find yourself tripping show power breakers, because the electrical load is larger than expected, avoid the temptation to adjust your breaker trip settings. The stationary engineers can modify these, but make sure you review the electrical coordination study with a certified electrician to ensure the system can accommodate any changes you make.
Tip #2: The show power distribution for an arena is typically broken up into multiple 200 amp and 400 amp camlock connections. While it is the responsibility of the event production team to bring everything needed to connect to the arena, it is inevitable that you will need extra male/female camlock connection types. Make sure the arena stationary engineers have a dozen or so male/female connectors, to make sure the show can connect to the venues power distribution panels. Without these, the concert or event will not be able to connect to the house power.
5. Consult professionals with experience in the industry
Communication is key and building a team of trust worthy professionals can help you navigate any hiccups or snafu’s when planning and operating concert show power in a new arena or venue. Remember, the event manager runs the show, but the stationary engineers should have a direct line of communication (cell phone or radio) with the show production manager before and during the show in case there are any show power issues.
Following these 5 simple guidelines and working with an experienced stationary engineering team will ensure your new arena or venue show power is correct and ready to accommodate any performance or concert.