Busch Stadium opened in April 2006, but the design, development and planning for every aspect of this undertaking began years earlier. In the early planning phases of the construction, Joe Abernathy, Vice President of Operations approached Will Electronics with his concerns about the existing specifications for the video surveillance system.
In the planning process prior to its grand opening in 2006, Busch Stadium, home to Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals, needed to replace its outdated surveillance system with one capable of supporting the new stadium from both a security and operational standpoint.
Needing to successfully monitor and manage a variety of areas simultaneously, from the main entry gates and seating bowl, to clubhouses and ticketing booths, Busch Stadium installed a system of 114 analog and digital cameras featuring a combination of WV-CW474S cameras with SDIII and auto-back focus technology, WJ-HD300A digital video recorders and WJ-ND300 network video recorders.
With its seamless integration into previously networked infrastructure, Panasonic’s system was a single-source solution, enabling Busch Stadium to upgrade its surveillance system with a first-class, vandal-proof package capable of providing the high-image quality and 24/7 coverage necessary to protect one of the United States’ most historic sporting venues.
New Busch Stadium opened in April 2006, but the design, development and planning for every aspect of this undertaking began years earlier.
In the early planning phases of the construction, Joe Abernathy, our Vice President of Operations approached me with his concerns about the existing specifications for the video surveillance system which included VHS recorders. He felt that was an outdated specification. As a result, we sat down and analyzed what we had and what we needed. The stadium was already slated to be outfitted with an IP infrastructure featuring Cisco switches and fiber connectivity down to the core.
Looking at this, we started asking questions like how much bandwidth would be available, and could we possibly use some of it for the video surveillance system. Once we had our final specifications formulated, the St. Louis Cardinals put the project out for bid. We decided to award the bid to Will Electronics for the materials and integration service, and with Sachs Electric Co., who does our electrical work and also installed access control and life safety systems for the installation of the cameras and equipment.
In the old stadium, we had about 14 cameras and there were severe limitations on what we could see. For the new stadium, we had an opportunity to upgrade our security surveillance, so we wanted to make sure we took advantage of it. We knew we wanted coverage of the main entry gates, where tickets are scanned. In addition, at the main gates there's the issue of who's coming and how fast they're coming in. We needed to be able to look at that not just from the standpoint of security, but also operationally, so we would be able to go back and review movement, to look at what areas were becoming congested so we could determine if we needed to add more ticket takers.
Once we get everyone in the gates, moving through the stadium, the next concern is the seating areas. And of course we need the best surveillance for the seating bowl area which is where most of the action happens during events. We need the ability to pan and see any activity going on, because we get all kinds of calls -from people throwing peanut shells onto other fans on different levels to fights breaking out -so those are key areas where we knew we wanted coverage.
Some of the concourse areas are also important, like our first-aid area and our escalators. We knew that other stadiums had issues with escalators, and we wanted our elevators to be covered as well. We just wanted to make sure we had as many areas as possible covered for the safety of our guests.
Busch Stadium employs Panasonic's DVRs and NVRs.
In addition, the clubhouse area is a sensitive area we knew we wanted to monitor. We expanded that over to the visiting clubhouse side and the players families' areas as well, to be sure their families are monitored. The system we installed utilizes a combination of 114 analog and digital cameras from Panasonic, networked together into the existing infrastructure which features Cisco switchers. Since there were four VLANs already established on the network, we separated the camera systems so that they would have their own dedicated portion of that network. While they do utilize the infrastructure already in place, they are controlled by dedicated servers. We opted not to have integration between access control and point of sale systems because we wanted to pick the best ingredients of security card access and surveillance. I think that's been our philosophy, not to integrate solely for the sake of. integration. We ended up going with the Panasonic system because it was the best video solution, and it does have the capability to integrate with the Lener card access system that we've opted at this point to leave as a stand-alone system.
One of the other strengths of the Panasonic solution is their recorder is an appliance recorder, a standalone recording unit, so it's not susceptible to the kind of vulnerabilities that a Microsoft server is vulnerable to. We incorporated a number of vandal proof cameras in our installation. This was more because we liked the specific features offered in that model than because we needed the cameras to be vandal proof in all the locations where they were installed. The IP fixed dome camera that met all of the specifications simply happened to be vandal proof. That said, we did envision a potential for problems with some of the fans who might have had too much alcohol, or just people getting rowdy. Therefore, we also have a number of perched camera set-ups to prevent anybody with anything in their hands that could have a significant impact on both the view and the connectivity of that camera by impacting or dislodging the wiring. We like to keep our security system secure.
One other key point for us in specifying the camera system was image quality. Crowd management is part of our security charge here. In the critical or vulnerable areas of the stadium, we wanted to have an extraordinary picture of where the people are, where they're coming through, at the gates and the escalators. There are situations where we need to monitor activity, where there might be some people without tickets, or where some people are getting into trouble. Since we were working with a networked infrastructure, a primary part of the selection process was to find a vendor who could seamlessly integrate an IP based mega pixel camera into their solution.
And when we looked at it, we found that Panasonic was the only company that could do that.
The design process was interesting in the way Ed Heisler from Facility Control Systems approached this as our consultant. He set out at least 26 design criteria, and vendors like Will Electronics were tapped with providing a solution that met as many of those parameters as possible. With this being a very high profile job, there were a lot of vendors who wanted to quote on this job. In the end, it came down to picture quality, and Panasonic was the only vendor who could supply a solution with mega pixel cameras. Everybody else talked about it, but only Panasonic had a solution that proved to be very workable. We have a hybrid system, with some analog cameras and quite a few network cameras, including most of the fixed cameras. The split is probably about 80 percent IP and 20 percent analog. It's a virtual matrix, and that's pretty interesting too.
A big part of the original design criteria was to take advantage of the Ethernet backbone. There was 150 mg split out in our VLAN that was available for the surveillance system. The solutions that were provided for all the fixed cameras were very straightforward in that you get an IP stream off the fixed cameras and any issues with refresh rates are bandwidth issues. On fixed cameras we weren't quite as critical. But, we were concerned about the bowl cameras that are high speed domes and we wanted to avoid any lag in the picture; we wanted to get the same real time refresh on the pan tilt zoom cameras that you would have with an older analog system.
Panasonic was right there all the way with us. They came back to the table with the GX encoder series, the MPEG 2 encoders which are very, very robust. We made sure that those critical cameras were running on the GX encoder backbone so that there was real time refresh. When it came time to really finalize the design, Panasonic really stepped up to the plate. Panasonic put in a tremendous number of man hours in the commissioning and all of the additional configuration as well.
Will Electronics came in mid-stream through the process so that they would become familiar with the systems working directly with Panasonic, and now Will Electronics is providing all of the support on it with Panasonic in the background if necessary. At this point, all the camera adds being done are being done by Will Electronics.
In the opinion of our consultant Ed Heisler, Panasonic makes the best camera in the industry. According to Ed, having a technician back focus a camera is the most subjective thing that can be done in a system. It's in the eye of the technician. But with SDIII technology and auto back focus, you know you're getting the best possible quality image out of that camera. We've done camera shoot-outs with competitors and found that the Panasonic camera out-performed anything we've tested. It's an extraordinary technology.
For the recording solution, we are using a combination of Panasonic WJ-HD300A digital video recorders and WJ-ND300 network video recorders. The digital video recorders are being used as multiplexers, to create the virtual matrix, not as DVRs. And they're also there for some redundancy. We put encoders on the analog cameras to feed the streams into the NVR for recording.
There's been some talk about potentially integrating the POS system as well. Panasonic has the capability that's why we wanted to go entries. to an IP based system, because of the benefits of expanding in the future. With the Panasonic solution, we will be able to integrate different types of components to add to our system.
To the north of Clark Street is the future site of the new Ballpark Village, a mixed-use development project to fill the void left by the old Busch Stadium. With respect to security and surveillance, we may want to have some integration with that once it is developed.
The Cardinals Hall of Fame museum and a plaza where fans can gather before and after games are likely to be included in the plans for this project.
By choosing to go with Panasonic, we had end to end support, beginning with factory support from Japan. Every other solution we looked at was built in pieces and brought to the table by an integrator. But Panasonic had the entire solution. That was important to us, for a high visibility project like this. We wanted a company that had the resources to get it done and stand behind their work, and that's why we were very comfortable with Panasonic and Will Electronics teaming up to deliver this project.
Panasonic brings out a first class product that will do what it's advertised to do Cardinals, Busch Stadium. and then some. With a lot of other vendors in this industry, especially some of the newer companies and some of the IT companies, you've got multiple channels, or multiple suppliers using software from one company and cameras from another company but we knew that Panasonic would be a single-source solution that would address all of our needs and deliver the right solution for us.