Building a future: The National Stadium of the Ivory Coast

When it comes to building a stadium to represent a nation, compromise is not an option. Reece Webb discovers how Protech Distribution changed the game at the Ivory Coast’s largest stadium.

Located between the communities of Ebimpé and Anyama, the National Stadium of the Ivory Coast stands tall as one of the largest and most modern stadiums ever built in West Africa. With a capacity for more than 60,000 people, this state-of-the-art venue is home to the Ivory Coast national football team and can play host to football matches, rugby games and other athletic events.

The stadium is also expected to host the opening ceremony and closing ceremony of the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations in January 2024, becoming an icon for international sports in the region.

Officially opened in 2020, the National Stadium of the Ivory Coast spans 20 hectares in a location 20 kilometres away from the economic heart of the Ivory Coast, Abidjan. While this location is remote today, this area will one day become a sporting hub for the Ivory Coast, with plans in place to build a luxurious Olympic village at the site that spans more than 287 hectares with the stadium at the heart of the complex.

With such ambitious development, a stadium of this scale and magnitude has been built to be a representative of the Ivory Coast on the world stage, and as such requires a technological solution of the highest standard to deliver a world-class experience to stadium-goers from around the world to showcase both the stadium and the nation to the world.

Inza Bamba, CEO, Protech Distribution, explains: “There was an open bid for this project. The stadium was built by a Chinese contractor [in 2020]. When the stadium was opened, it had an AV system that was not sufficient for a stadium of 60,000 people and did not meet FIFA’s technical requirements.

Everything had to be upgraded, from the sound system to the electrical system and the broadcast component to bring it to an international standard. It needed a system that was powerful enough for an audience of 60,000 people. The sound system in the stadium is designed for audio clarity but also as an EVAC system.

“In case of an emergency, you need to have a system that is powerful enough to be above the ambient noise of such a big crowd. We won the tender because we provided a design that met FIFA’s regulations which required a system with a minimum of 95-98dB. Our system offers 114dB which is way above what the client was asking for. The STI [speech transmission index] also needed to be 0.5 and we offer 0.6-0.7.”

While the stadium’s sound system needed to be powerful and crystal clear, the Ivory Coast government also required a sound system that would stand the test of time over a 15-year life cycle, requiring speakers that offered at least a 15-year warranty.

To meet this need, Protech specified Biamp Community loudspeakers to form the backbone of this installation, providing 72 R2-66Max speakers throughout the venue.

Bamba elaborates: “We couldn’t pick any other manufacturer than Biamp and their Community speakers because they offer a 15-year warranty with a five-year warranty for the electronics. Because of the weather here, which is hot, rainy, and humid, we needed a system that could reliably work in these conditions and operate over fibre. Community offers the R2-66Max loudspeakers, which we picked for the system. When we undertook simulations of the sound in the venue we got perfect results with these loudspeakers, so we went with that.”

12 R2-77Z loudspeakers were installed to bring punchy sound to the pitch, supported by 14 IS8-215 subwoofers. Biamp’s Tesira processor was also key to this project, routing all of the signals from the amplifiers to the speakers, using Dante for the system. For amplification, Protech used Powersoft amplifiers to provide sound reinforcement for the entire stadium, installing 72 Powersoft Duecanali6404 and Quattrocanali4804 amplifiers to bring quality match audio and coherent evacuation instructions.

Bamba adds: “We used Powersoft amplifiers to give us a robust system to cover the stadium. This stadium will be home to prestigious events like the African Cup of Nations, so the system needed to be very robust and reliable.”

Powersoft’s Armonia Plus software was also used in the design process, identifying any potential issues with the sound system. Additionally, Audio Technica 3000 series microphones were specified for the venue as well as Biamp NPXG1100 microphones for real time announcements and evacuation orders.

The system also needed to be redundant, running fibre optic cables to all four of the venue’s racks to cover all four corners throughout the stadium. Each rack is responsible for one quarter of all speakers, dedicated to bringing sound to each corner of the stadium. Two fibre optic cables run back and forth throughout the system with an additional analogue cable as a backup. To support the system, Palmer PPB10 and PPB20 audio splitters are used to transport the analogue signal from one rack to another.

“For Biamp we used Tesira for the fibre optic, but we used Palmer for the analogue redundancy”, says Bamba, “If all of the fibre optic cables are down, we still have the analogue system that is running to pick up the signal. If one rack goes down, you still have three quarters of the stadium that still has signal. This system is never quiet, and redundancy is key when you are in a country where power can be unreliable. Every single piece of the system is redundant.”

On the back end, Allen & Heath Aventis mixers were used alongside GX4816 and DX168 audio expanders. “People need to be able to go to the mixer and find exactly what they’re looking for”, adds Bamba, “Aventis links everything together; you will press one button and you will find what you are looking for. We needed something that was cost-effective and easy to use, and Aventis fit the bill for that.”

Reflecting on the challenges of this project, the cabling presented its own unique obstacles, installing 25 kilometres of wire throughout the stadium. Bamba explains: “Every speaker required two wires. We had to pull the speaker cable, the fibre optic and the analogue cable for audio so this was the most challenging part of the process for us.”

Today, the National Stadium of the Ivory Coast shines bright as a venue that offers international standards of technology, ready for a future that will entertain international audiences on the global stage. To meet this need, Protech is responsible for support and maintenance of the system for the next 12 months, providing training and technical support for the stadium team to run the system in the future.

The work does not stop there, however, as upgrades and overhauls to the system remain ongoing. Protech has been brought on board to carry out additional work to the stadium to allow it to continue to meet and exceed international standards.

Bamba adds: “We were initially brought in just to handle the audio side of the system; however, we are also involved with developing the stadium’s broadcast components as well. There will be a TV studio and a radio studio. We are providing all of the fibre optic cabling and broadcast equipment and our team is working on this right now. Ultimately, what will be sold is image, so the broadcast component needs to be strong and reliable.

“This is one of the largest stadiums in West Africa and it is the largest stadium in the country. For Protech, this was the first stadium project that we have ever undertaken, and we are proud that the entire system was designed and built by local people, that was a big plus for me. Usually, you have to bring people in from outside the country, but this system was implemented by local people. It took 60 days to put the system up, tune it and install the cabling, so I am very proud of my team for how quickly and efficiently they worked. I see a great future for this stadium.”

Allen & Heath Avantis digital mixer, GX4816 audio expander, DX168 portable expander, Dante64 networking card 

Audio Technica ATW-3212 microphones 

Biamp R2-66Max loudspeakers, R2-77Z loudspeakers, IS8-215 subwoofers, Tesiraforte DSP processor, NPXG1100 microphones 

Cisco 250 series switch 

Palmer PPB10/PPB20 audio splitters 

Powersoft Duecanali6404  amplifiers, Quattrocanali4804 amplifiers

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