Education

Stambaugh’s New Media Center Broadcasts Growth

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – When ESPN came to Stambaugh Stadium in 2006 to cover two YSU playoff games, the broadcasters were less than impressed with the media center at the venue.

“We always had a little shack up here that was our TV booth,” says Trevor Parks, director of athletics communication for Youngstown State University. “They kind of laughed at the whole thing.”

When YSU’s new season starts, the “rickety old box” ESPN found amusing will be long gone, replaced by the newly constructed $1 million Don Constantini Multimedia Center.

“It’s a pretty impressive structure,” Parks says.

The center, above the bleachers on the eastern side of Stambaugh, will house rooms for broadcasting and the instant replay/official review booth for games, as well as offices for the university sports communication staff.

Across the front of the building are eight media booths, which will house TV talent, coaching staff and video production crews.

Across the field, work is being done to add four additional loges above the western bleachers.

“That’s to let us accommodate some people who have been waiting for a while and bring some revenue in that we haven’t had,” Parks says.

In addition to being more aesthetically pleasing, the Constantini Center, scheduled to open Sept. 3, will also help the athletics department reduce redundancies and save production costs, says Kevin Davis, video specialist and an adjunct professor at YSU.

“The plan is to be able to produce all the sporting events from one control room,” he says.

Right now the athletics department uses four systems for all of its editing and replay. Each system is different and has to be transported from venue to venue as needed.

Once the center is open, the department will be able to send crews with small broadcast units, which will then send video over the YSU network back to one central system inside Stambaugh. 

“This allows us to basically focus where all of our money is being spent for that type of equipment,” Davis says. “By focusing on one system, we can expand the abilities of that system. So instead of having three channels of replay, we can have seven channels of replay.”

Davis says that will also allow the staff to expand the use of replay to sports such as softball and soccer, which in the past never received the services.

“We’re going to be able to bring that in probably next year,” he says.

A mix of professionals and students broadcasts and edits YSU sports programs, so any expansion of sports coverage will likely mean more opportunities for students to get hands-on training.

“I know a lot of our students are really excited about it,” Davis says.

Even more exciting is that the media center will also contain the Payiavlas Family Classroom, named for the owners of Warren-based AVI Foodsystems Inc., who donated $500,000 for its construction.

The classroom will be one of YSU’s “classrooms of the future,” described as “technology-rich classroom environments” that will “enhance student experience in a myriad of ways, including the ability to revisit previous lectures through video storage systems,” according to the university website.

“There aren’t any other programs like this in the state that we’re aware of,” says Adam Earnheardt, chairman and professor in the YSU Department of Communications.

Most of the students using the new classroom will be sports broadcasting majors, but other communications and journalism courses will also make use of the space, he says.

The new sports information program, which began this semester, will also hold classes there.

“We were really clear with the donors that this wasn’t going to be a space that was used six or seven times a year. This is going to be a space that our students are occupying all the time,” Earnheardt says.

But perhaps the most valuable asset is the location of the classroom. Right now most communications courses are held inside Bliss Hall, on the opposite side of campus.

With the new classroom, students will be feet away from the student-athletes they cover and the professionals they’ll be learning from.

“There’s really not that many models like that in the U.S., in the university setting, where you have those kind of people all in the same space,” Earnheardt says.

Plans are to move two or three classes into the space as soon as possible. Earnheardt estimates at least 50 students will use it initially.

During the offseason, he wants to convert the press boxes into lab space to give the students more hands-on experience. “Students can get in there and do their editing work and also practice in those environments,” Earnheardt says.

If anticipation for the new center is running high, it may be the result of a few construction snags, which pushed the completion date back by about four months. 

“The major snag was a foundation problem,” says Davis.

At the beginning of the project, workers discovered the ground beneath the new center wasn’t sufficiently stable to support the additional weight.

“They had to drill down underneath the grandstand and put pylons down to support this,” Davis says, motioning to the large structure that exists today and is supported by steel erected by the JJ Connor Co. 

“They were getting the foundations ready so we could put all the steel on it. There’s a lot of steel on that job,” says owner Jim Connor.

From April 18 to June 16, Connor had men on site installing structural and miscellaneous steel. 

Connor says having such a big building built on so small a site made the center one of the hardest projects he’s worked on.

“It was one of the few jobs we’ve done where they wanted all the bolts snug-tight, not impacted. That tells me that there’s so much there and it’s so bulky that they want it to be able to flex,” he says.

And Parks thinks that should the Penguins make it to the playoffs, the Constantini Center will make an impression on both ESPN and its audience. 

“When we get in the playoffs and ESPN is here in a nice building, and they show that to everybody across the country, they’ll see this “stadium” is growing,” he says.

Pictured: Trevor Parks, director of athletics communication, says the new center will be ready for YSU’s home opener. 

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.