The 2021/2022 NHL season saw the vast majority of teams across North America returning to their home arenas along with their legions of loyal fans following a shortened 2020/21 campaign with mostly empty stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wanting to elevate the pre-game and intermission experience for the retuning faithful, the Columbus Blue Jackets engaged Toronto’s Aligned Vision Group (AV Group) to design and integrate a state-of-the-art, venue-wide entertainment lighting system that matches the level of action and excitement on the ice at Nationwide Arena.
“They were very clear about wanting the experience to be based on lighting,” begins John Coniglio, one of the Founding Partners behind Aligned Vision Group. “The recent trends in pro sports have been all about projection mapping and massive scoreboards; they wanted to stand apart and bring the power of lighting back to the show.”
Aligned Vision Group’s winning proposal included some value-engineering in which they upgraded some of the specified lighting fixtures for increased impact and modified the trussing system to be more efficient and flexible.
Whereas the original trussing design was a single 360-degree structure spanning the edges of the ice surface, the Aligned Vision team engineered a solution with the same dimensions but divided into four separate segments for modularity. “That way, if there’s a visiting concert or production, only the end zone trussing needs to come down, which then lands on custom carts and can be easily stowed away to free up rigging points,” notes Coniglio, adding that when it comes to the firm’s penchant for value engineering, “It’s about wanting to give every client the best value for the same dollar.”
The key fixture families comprising the design are the Robe Pointe and MegaPointe hybrid moving heads and SGM Q-8 high-power strobes. The Robe units are integral to the flagship effect that the Blue Jackets’ technical team has dubbed the “wall of light,” where intense beams scan straight down along the circumference of the ice and, with the Chauvet Amhaze Stadium Tour hazers going strong, create a solid wall of white beams. “It’s such a great effect; it looks amazing,” Coniglio enthuses. “Those fixtures are just so bright for their size in that category and really deliver the full effect.”
The MegaPointes, meanwhile, handle branded elements like advertiser logos thanks to their ability to cut through the game lighting and deliver a crisp, clear image on the ice.
The LED-based Q-8s are the real “team player” of the package, combining punchy strobe effects with colour wash capabilities in a single package. “That really impressed the client, because the original concept included colour wash fixtures that had to be omitted to fit the project budget, but with this fixture, those capabilities are back in the design” – yet another example of the firm’s value engineering ethos. “When we first fired them up, we were amazed at how much we were able to cover,” Coniglio adds. “The client was ecstatic over it; now, they have an audience effect where they can light up the entire bowl with just 24 fixtures and still deliver that impactful strobe effect.”
The arena’s existing High End Systems Hog 4 console controls the system, which Aligned Vision Group was able to revamp by expanding the DMX universes before handing it off to the in-house programmers and operators.
Impressively, the entire system was installed and operational in the span of just three days, ready to make its dazzling debut when the Blue Jackets welcomed the Arizona Coyotes to Nationwide Arena for their home opener in mid-October 2021.
Looking back on the project, Coniglio says he and his colleagues relished the opportunity to go back to basics in a sense. “Our team loves playing with the latest technologies; that’s what drives us. We were up against a very tight timeline, but it was such a fun job to work on. We loved getting our creative juices flowing again working strictly with lighting, and know that Blue Jackets fans are going to be blown away by the spectacle on and off the ice.“