Thirty Years and Running
The Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, N.J.
By Tim Neary
In 2000, the NJSEA began upgrading the digital control system to a new control platform designed to integrate all core building functions. The control platform allows Meadowlands operators to control HVAC, security and fire systems from a single location.
Within the next two years, the project work grew to include security and fire system upgrades across the campus. The video surveillance system, for instance, had consisted of a series of traditional analog cameras. Rather than replacing the entire system, the Meadowlands upgraded to a software-based surveillance platform. Technicians left the analog cameras in place but converted their signals to digital feeds, which are tied together by the surveillance platform and sent directly to the building control system. Instead of spending money to install an entirely new system, the NJSEA was able to reinvest in existing equipment.
Along with the digital video system, the building control platform monitors points controlled by access-card readers used by Meadowlands employees to enter restricted areas of the buildings. This enables operators to track the movement of people throughout the complex. And, because the security system is integrated with the building control platform, Meadowlands staff can easily pinpoint specific locations throughout the complex and view associated clips.
The system's purpose is to enhance safety across the complex, including protecting fans during major events. But the enhanced video capabilities have solved smaller-scale issues as well. For example, during the first week the system was up and running, a vehicle hit the parked car of a Meadowlands employee and drove off without stopping. Security staff played back parking lot video surveillance and found a recording of the incident, which led to the capture of the culprit and eventual reimbursement for the damages. This same parking lot surveillance has also been instrumental in stopping car thieves.
Fire system upgrades also provide greater system visibility for enhanced response time and improved safety. The upgrades involved replacing aging fire systems that didn't meet modern codes with enhanced fire panels, which tie into the building control system in the event of a fire. For example, if a pull station is activated, the new fire panel routes the signal to engage emergency response systems. The data also is sent to operators of the building automation platform, who view the information as screen graphics to pinpoint the exact location of the fire.
Prior to the upgrades, finding the source of an alarm was more difficult. The numerous nooks and crannies throughout the complex made locating a fire an onerous and potentially dangerous task. Lit cigarettes in garbage cans at the racetrack, for example, were a common source of fires, but very difficult to locate.
The heating and cooling systems at the Meadowlands are far more complex than the standard HVAC designs used to control temperatures in offices or other common areas. The Meadowlands system, by contrast, needs to control the sports environments for athletes and thousands of fans.
Not many people realize how much it takes to convert the IZOD Center (formerly the Continental Airlines arena) from a hardwood basketball floor one night to an ice rink for thousands of rabid hockey fans the next. It's far more complicated than simply replacing floor panels.
For example, the temperature and humidity levels required for basketball games are obviously different from hockey requirements. The NHL mandates specific standards to create the right playing conditions.
These days, the Meadowlands easily meets those standards with the help of the integrated systems. Meadowlands personnel literally flip a switch that automatically regulates the air temperature and humidity to appropriate levels.
Even with an effective, efficient technology platform, the Meadowlands still offers many challenges, thanks to its size and complexity. That's why the performance contract includes a maintenance component, which ensures a team of outside technicians work full time to complement the Meadowlands' own staff, offering concentrated expertise and support. The technicians fill the obvious service and maintenance role of making sure all systems are operating properly, as well as ensuring NJSEA mechanics are trained and understand the ins and outs of the technology. Additionally, they test the fire systems on a regular basis to ensure the complex remains up to code.
As the demands on the Meadowlands and requirements for staff have grown, so has the need for maintenance and services that keep the complex operating at peak condition. Managing a sports campus of this size is a complicated task, and the Meadowlands is rising above the challenge—earning a spot in the performance hall of fame.