By Bryan Baumgardner
It was a celebration 108 years in the making.
More than 5 million fans from around the world converged on Grant Park on Friday, November 4, 2016 to celebrate the first World Series championship for the Chicago Cubs since 1908. It was the largest gathering to ever take place in the Western Hemisphere, and the seventh largest gathering in human history.
While the excitement was built over 108 years, the logistics for pulling of the record-breaking celebration had to be pulled off practically overnight.
On October 27th, Clearwing Productions received a call from Live Nation asking what it would take to provide a top-notch audio system complete with rigging towers and a lighting package in the event that the Cubs won the World Series. Various scenarios were put in place as to when the event would take place, but little did we guess that the Series would stretch all the way to Game 7. On the day of Game 6, the plan was that if the Cubs were to win game 7, the event would be held on Monday, November 7th. This would have given us ample time to load in, rehearse, etc. on the Friday before.
We started prepping control and drive systems on Wednesday morning with the intent to finish by Thursday evening should the Cubs win. And then, on Wednesday at 4pm, we got a call from our client. “If they win tonight,” they said, “we are loading in tomorrow at 8am for a Friday event.” Needless to say, we quickly shifted all resources in our shop into overdrive, working to complete the monumental task at hand as we had only started the initial prep.
Once the shop had shifted into overdrive, we quickly decided to split the crew into two shifts. We kept half the crew in the shop and sent the other half home to come back at midnight. That way, when the midnight crew arrived, there would be only minimal gear left to prep (speakers, delay structures, etc.).
Early in the game, it looked likely that the Cubs would win. But, anything can happen in baseball, and the ninth inning ended in a tie. And, to make things even more suspenseful, a rain delay held up the extra innings. The Cubs ended up winning, and before we knew it, it was 1am with a quickly approaching 5am deadline to leave for Chicago.
The last trucks rolled out of our shop at 6am. We split the trucks into different “geographic” areas, as the site was spread out over 4,156’ of Grant Park. Load in started at 8am on Thursday morning – and, since everything came together so quickly without site surveys, it took quite some time to complete. The last of the crew didn’t leave until 5am on Friday morning, only to return at 6am for the on-site callback.
With the help of Google Earth, Google Street View, Chicago GIS information, and AutoCAD drawings from the City of Chicago, I had been able to make a very accurate Soundvision drawing. We knew exactly what we were walking into, all without having an actual in-person site survey. Once I had the venue modeled in Soundvision, we were able to send our client 3D renderings of delay positions for approval. This allowed us to ensure that everyone was on the same page regarding placements upon our arrival. The number of speakers was determined with feedback from Soundvision, and simply by what we had left in the shop. Scott Sugden with L-Acoustics assisted with the design as well, and we brought a plethora of small speakers to assist with fill as needed.
The audio design consisted of three main areas: Lower Hutchinson Field, Buckingham Fountain, and Butler Field. Consistent coverage was primarily focused on Lower Hutchinson Field since it was the location for the main event. We achieved this by hanging two main arrays, each consisting of eight K1 and two K2 off of a Stageline SL320. Having the K2 on the bottom of these arrays allowed us to use the asymmetrical coverage mode to avoid the stage thrust, which was 16’ in front of the PA. For off fills, we used four ground-stacked K2 on one side, and six K2 on the other. Front fills were handled by X8s distributed along the downstage edge. We used our Applied LA16-35 line array towers to suspend 4x K1 over 4x K2 on each. The towers were spaced out at increments of 300’ to cover the entire 1,400’ length of the primary area.
In the areas past Hutchinson Field, Buckingham Fountain and Butler Field, we deployed a few smaller arrays for local coverage including a few stacks of 4x VDOSC, and a few hangs of K1/KARA. We embedded our audio signal into the video feed, which was distributed over fiber, in order to get the audio feed to these systems. The farthest delay point to the main stage was approximately 4,156’ away – quite a distance!
For the broadcast needs, we used the new Radial mPress system. We have switched all of our press multi-systems over to this, and have had amazing success. Due to the superb transformer isolation, we never need to waste time hunting down any buzzes, distortion, etc. Additionally, the system is very well made in Radial’s characteristic bulletproof fashion. For this event, we had a mPress main station at FOH, fed from the S6L. It then ran over 300’ of XLR to the press riser where we had 10x ExoPods laid out for the press’s needs. Due to the high density of the ExoPods, this provided 100x XLR and 40x 3.5mm outputs.
The rally itself lasted approximately an hour and a half, and surprisingly, the crowd cleared out quickly after it ended. We had the site back and ready for load out at around 2pm. And, with special thanks to Chicago Local 2 for assisting us with the speedy and focused load out, our truck doors were closed at 8:30pm. In just over 36 hours, we went from a clear site, to a massive rally with massive production, back to a clear site again. Pretty incredible!
Most of our success for this event was due to the amazing crew at Clearwing. Our only option was to load in every area at once, and despite the long hours, everyone was extremely focused. We were confronted by many challenges; for example, the delay towers. For six of the towers, we had to roll in everything from one end of the primary event area and distribute it over a length of 1000’ through Lower Hutchinson Field, which had standing water throughout. Because it was extremely wet and muddy, it was nearly impossible to use heavy machinery to get our gear to where it needed to go. We had to be extremely organized in how we loaded in this area. First we had to wait for the turf protection to be laid; next, all the trussing had to move into place, followed by ballast, bike rack barricade, feeder, signal snakes, amp racks, and finally speakers. Fortunately, our stellar crew was staged and ready to “pounce” as soon as one discipline was completed – many thanks to you all!
- 2x Avid S6L-32D
- 48 x K1
- 52 x K2
- 16 x V-Dosc
- 6 x Kara
- 12 x KS28
- 6 x ARCSII
- 12 x HiQ
- 6 x 12XT
- 8 x X8
- 34 x LA-RAK
- 1 x LA-RAK II
- 4x QSC K8
- 4x Shure PSM1000
- 4x Shure Axient
- 4x Shure UHFR
- 1x Lake LM44
- 3x Lake LM26
- 1x Radial mPress system with 10x ExoPods
- 12x Vari*Lite VL3500 Wash
- 4x Vari*Lite VL3515 Spot
- 1x GrandMA 2 Light
- 2x ReelFX DF-50 Hazers
- 6x Staging Dimensions 8×8 Wunderstructure PA Platforms
- 7x Applied LA16-35 Line Array Towers
- Mercer Pinkston – Account Executive
- Bryan Baumgardner – Lead Audio
- Jamie Earle – Audio System Tech
- Ron Cook – FOH Engineer
- Jon DaSilva – MON Engineer
- Taylor Mundstock – Buckingham Fountain Delays
- Robby Hegge – Butler Field Delays
- Mitch Van Dyke – Lighting Tech
- Matt McEvilly – Delay Structure Tech
- Sam McKeown – Delay Structure Tech / Audio Deck
- Rob Vaccerella – Delay Structure & PA Platform Tech
Bryan Baumgardner coordinates all operations and logistics for Clearwing’s audio department in Milwaukee. Bryan started at Clearwing in 2005 and has held positions as audio technician, audio/video manager and IT specialist.