A Cultural Center For the Arts

An Architectural “Facelift” at Historic Knowlton Auditorium

For many towns and cities around the country, the high school auditorium is more than just a facility for the school district – it’s the cultural center for the arts in the community. There is no better example of this than historic Knowlton Auditorium in Austin, MN.

Knowlton Auditorium is part of the Austin School District and was built as a community asset in 1937. The auditorium is connected to the high school’s gymnasium. When built, the auditorium was separated from the gym by a removable wall so both spaces could be used for major events like graduation. A remodeling project completed 1994 replaced the removable wall with a less expensive fixed wall which reduced the usability of the space. In early 2015, the school district started a renovation project for the auditorium and gymnasium to upgrade the audio and video technology, improve the lighting, provide the space with an architectural “facelift” and replace that darn wall with a new fire-rated partition.

Upgrading the Technology

When discussing the objectives for the recent renovation, Matt Miller, Director of Facility Services for Austin School District, stated, “We needed to upgrade the technology in the auditorium to continue to attract outside performances and touring group to the community. The auditorium is used for local theater productions, Austin Arts programs and hosts the annual stockholders meeting for Hormel Corporation which is headquartered here.” Miller added, “We also wanted the AV systems to be easy to operate and reliable. The previous technology required an AV specialist to run it and we wanted to get away from that.”

The school district contracted with Dave Bridges at the architectural company ATS&R in Minneapolis to design the new technology systems and with PSNI Affiliate, Alpha Video and Audio, Inc. in Eden Prairie, MN to integrate and install the systems. To successfully integrate the technology in the auditorium, Alpha Video needed expertise in both parts of their corporate name – audio AND video.

Creating The Best Sounding Audio

As with any auditorium project, the audio systems were the highest priority. Electro-Voice Pro Audio Speakers are installed throughout the auditorium. Left, right and center speaker clusters are ceiling mounted in front of the stage proscenium with the center cluster containing low-frequency sub-woofer. Fill speakers are installed under the stage to fill the first six rows and under-the-balcony and above-the-balcony speakers are installed to provide full sound throughout the auditorium.

Two Chief Manufacturing roll top desks are installed at the back of the main floor to hold the mixing systems. Audio is mixed using a Roland M-480 Digital Audio Mixing console. Electro-Voice wireless handheld microphones and Electro-voice headworn microphones are available for the performers.

New Electro-Voice speakers are also installed in the gymnasium.

Ease of use

New projectors are installed in both the auditorium and gymnasium. A powerful Christie Digital WUXGA, 3-DLP, 12,000-lumens projector is in the auditorium. The projector for the gym is a Vivitek 1080P, 12,000-lumens projector installed in a ceiling-mounted Draper scissor-lift so it can be protected during sporting events.

Two 55” LED confidence monitors are installed on the balcony and two 80” displays are added to the lobby area to provide information to visitors and event attendees. Three displays are installed under the balcony to improve the sight lines.

The other Chief roll top desk houses a Broadcast Pix Flint Integrated Production switcher which switches video feeds from three Panasonic HD PTZ camera systems installed strategically throughout the auditorium.

To improve the ease of use, a Crestron control system is installed which can be accessed by a 10.1” touch-screen control panel installed next to the mixing consoles or by two iPads with Crestron apps. Using the iPads, the principle can now easily control the AV technology from his office.

Working with Alpha Video

Commenting on working with Alpha Video, Matt Miller focused on the service they received from Jake Remus who was Alpha Video’s Project Manager for the project. “I’ve been impressed with Jake Remus,” said Miller. “He did an excellent job in catering to the needs of our non-technical users and communicating with us to keep everything on schedule. And, since the project was completed, he has been very helpful to answer any technical-related questions or integration questions. I’ve been really impressed with his customer service.”

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