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Neat-O: Sports Bar’s Worst Nightmare

System at sports bar in Bozeman, Mont. was so poorly designed it was costing the bar business every weekend.


Neat-O: Sports Bar’s Worst Nightmare
The original installation at Spectators Sports Bar and Grill in Bozeman, Mont. featured 1-inch wooden blocks to separate and cool the components. Avitel cleaned up the job, replacing the wooden blocks with Middle Atlantic racks to properly house the 13 DirecTV H-21 HD satellite receivers, two Motorola cable boxes, and Samsung DVD1080P9 DVD player. (Click here to view full-size image.)
Steve Crowe · December 14, 2010

Ever been to a sports bar to watch the big game only to be disappointed with the experience? Broken TVs. Dropped signals. Employees can’t change the channel.

Those experiences won’t attract many return customers. And that is exactly what was happening to Joe Domanski, owner of Spectators Sports Bar and Grill in Bozeman, Mont., right next to Montana State University.

A local custom integration business installed 22 TVs throughout the bar and a control system, but there were quite a few problems. “There were so many limitations the way the original system was set up,” Domanski says. “We couldn’t get certain channels on certain TVs, so we couldn’t get all the games. Only certain satellites were connected to certain TVs. Customers were frustrated and were walking out the door, costing me business every weekend.”

Domanski called the company countless times to fix the system, but nobody ever showed up. “Completely unprofessional,” Domanski says.

That’s when he turned to Avitel, another local company. System designer Derek Flikkema and three installers revamped the entire system over two days, working from 2 a.m. to noon each day while Spectators was closed.

imageClick image to enlarge

“It was pretty scary looking at what we had in front of us and proposing a system,” Flikkema says. “To see someone spend so much money on a system and have to start all over again, it’s hard to propose that to somebody. We gave him a couple options on how we could retrofit his current system and make it work, but he was willing to start from scratch.”

Flikkema and crew replaced 12 TVs that were burnt out, added two TVs, rewired all 24 to an Autopatch Video Matrix Switcher, reterminated all the connectors and installed a cable management system. Avitel also replaced the 1-inch wooden blocks originally used to separate and cool the components with four Middle Atlantic racks to properly house the 13 DirecTV H-21 HD satellite receivers, two Motorola cable boxes, and Samsung DVD1080P9 DVD player.

“Nothing was originally labeled, so it was a lot of tracking down where existing cables were going to see if there was anything we could reuse,” Flikkema says. “But now any TV can be mixed and matched with any receiver.”

imageClick image to enlarge

Avitel programmed a Crestron TPS-12G-QM 12-inch touchpanel and a 3.5-inch RTI T-3V touchscreen remote, both of which can control each TV and all five zones of audio. Each TV and audio zone is labeled on both devices so employees can quickly and easily access what they need. If they don’t understand what a button does on the touchpanel, they can hit the “Help” button to be guided through the process.

The Crestron touchpanel can display the layout of the bar, showing the TVs, zones of audio, etc. Users can watch video from any TV in the bar on the touchpanel. Flikkema says if the employees could operate the point of sales on the touchpanel from a GUI that has a layout of the bar, they should be able to do the same thing with the audio/video.

“The original control system was too difficult to use,” he says. “The TVs weren’t numbered. If the employees don’t know how to use a system, it doesn’t matter what’s behind it. The key is being able to use it. We chose the Crestron, RTI and Autopatch system because we knew it would work. We weren’t learning the system either; we knew what to expect.”

imageAvitel outfitted the bar with eight 6-inch Tannoy Di6 DC Surface Mount Speakers, four Tannoy 6.5-inch IC6 DC in-ceiling Speakers, four Russound outdoor speakers, one outdoor speaker from Niles, and a 12-channel SpeakerCraft BB1235 amplifier. Everything is wired to an Autopatch 18x18 audio matrix switcher, allowing multiple games throughout the bar to be heard over the speakers.

And there’s a TouchTunes Jukebox that overrides the music playing from the bar. When the Jukebox stops, music from the original source continues playing. Avitel also integrated “All On” and “All Off” control for when the bar opens and closes, picking up the music and TVs exactly where they last were.

“The best part about the entire system is we don’t get service calls,” Flikkema said. “We haven’t had to go in there and train anyone. It’s self-explanatory.”

“Avitel should have charged way more for what they did,” Domanski jokes. “It’s perfect and mindless. It’s so easy I can run it, and I’m a bartender.”



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  About the Author

Steve Crowe has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Steve at [email protected]

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