A New Day in Electrical Contracting

It’s a new day for pop diva Céline Dion and for high-tech security and electronic visual effects at her Las Vegas show of the same name. The electronics for the high-energy show come courtesy of Bombard Electric, Las Vegas.

Bombard worked both the low-voltage and the electronics side of the much-praised Colosseum hall at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. The spectacular finished product is evidence of just how much work and energy went into the project.

Over 100,000 people each month are expected to see Céline perform at the Colosseum, every month for the next couple of years. In addition to her music, the show features the largest indoor LED screen in North America. The lighting and the audiovisual effects are stunning. The screen creates an extraordinary illusion of depth, taking the concert-goer beyond the usual physical limitations of the stage. The fusion of eclectic movement, an immense set, the beauty of the costumes, dramatic lighting and spectacular surround-sound blend to give the public a stunning show. The show is electric. Fortunately, the electric installation was just as stunning for the contractor.

“The job went smoothly. We stayed on schedule and it opened on time,” said Terry Bombard, vice president of Bombard and co-manager of the project. “It was pretty painless from a project management point of view.”

While the last hectic month or so might cause site superintendent, Mike Gurule, to disagree, by most measures, it was a great job. The electrical costs actually came in $700,000 under budget, allowing management to add some bells and whistles elsewhere.

The Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace was built by the Palace’s parent company, Park Place Entertainment Corp., which owns and operates hotels, casinos and resorts. “‘A New Day’ and the Colosseum will permanently change the landscape of the entertainment business,” said Park Place President and CEO Wallace R. Barr.

The Las Vegas site is a contemporary interpretation of one of antiquity’s architectural wonders. The 4,143-seat entertainment and event venue was created with Dion’s show in mind. However, it can be used for other events—boxing, for instance—when the diva is not in house.

The project came in with a price tag of $95 million, making the Colosseum the centerpiece of the new construction program at Caesar’s Palace. In addition to the Colosseum, it includes refurbished rooms, new restaurants and entertainment venues, and new Roman-theme facades on the hotel’s towers.

“The biggest challenge was logistics,” said Bombard. The Colosseum is located on a busy street corner in a high-traffic area. The hotel remained in operation throughout the project, so electricians could not block access and equipment had to be out of sight and away from the public.

Bombard has a great deal of experience in theater work and that background was instrumental in getting them the Colosseum job. The project was not based on a set of drawings. “It was a fee-proposal bid,” Bombard said. Bombard did all of the power for the stage lifts, house lighting and theatrical dimming. They brought power to the LED video wall. But there was a lot of other work as well.

“We mobilized in March 2002 and were on the job until November,” said Jason Bosnos of Bombard. Of course, they still work there, tweaking the installation. Bosnos was project manager for the low-voltage side of the project. It included installing a voice/data system based on Ethernet over fiber, a complete surveillance system with 56 cameras and the complete audiovisual installation at the Colosseum.

Security components

Colosseum management specified the targets for the cameras. “This was no throw-it-up-and-go job,” Bosnos said. “There are specific targets.” They range from Dion’s dressing room to back-of-house locations, to grounds security.

The heart of the surveillance system includes Philips cameras and an American Dynamics switcher. The security system is tied in with the Philips Surveillance System put in place to protect the property, guests and talent.

Over a million feet of low-voltage system wiring was used on this job alone. No matter how one looks at it, that’s a major project. Bosnos says the major providers were Belden Cable, Whirlwind Cable and West Penn Cable.

“The AVC package includes equipment from Yamaha, Myers, Sennheisser, and a wide variety of others,” Bosnos continued. “These items were supplied by others. Bombard Electric had the installation portion only.”

The voice and data system was developed using the Avaya Systimax Structured Cabling System. Systimax is an integrated cabling system for networking that includes voice, data, video, building controls and security on one backbone. The system is set up to allow a mixture of cabling types so copper can be used today and fiber can be installed tomorrow without losing the basic underpinning of any part of the network.

Lighting extraordinaire

The electrical service at the Colosseum consists of 7.25MVA at 12,470V three phase, according to Ron Henze, co-manager of the project for Bombard.

There are five 12,470V three-phase unit sub stations 277/480V and 120/208V secondary, he continued. They were manufactured by Westinghouse Products Division, Cutler Hammer and the local supplier was Grove Madsen Industries of Las Vegas.

The life safety and fire alarm systems were supplied through SimplexGrinnell of Las Vegas.

There are both theatrical and architectural lighting systems. Elwyn Gee of San Francisco put together the architectural lighting, using an ETC Unison control system. The conventional lighting package was supplied by Fourth Phase Las Vegas and installed by Bombard Electric.

Theatrical Dimming Equipment has a connected load of 3.2MVA at 120/208 volt three phase, Henze continued. There are 15 dimmer cabinets, supplied by Alios of Las Vegas.

The Theatrical lights are Ellipsoidal, Fresnel, Cycling and Par 1000 fixtures, Henze said. A total of 312 fixtures were installed for profile zoom, color scroller and follow spots. There are 500 automated moving light fixtures and 19 company switches, he added.

Bob Reese was the site superintendent for the low-voltage part of the job for Bombard Electric and Mike Gurule was site superintendent for the electronics.

Working fever

Painstaking effort was also put into offering exceptional sound quality at the Colosseum. Sound Designer Denis Savage worked with a state-of-the-art digital console and a custom-built surround sound system, including 115 speakers, to create texture and ambiance with sound. Dion’s voice is displayed at its fullest with this new technology.

The performance was created by Franco Dragone, produced by Concerts West of Los Angeles, and presented by Chrysler. “Our goal with this project is to create a unique spectacle of song, theater, dance and state-of-the-art technology,” said Dragone. “I see Céline as a satellite who captures images. She will use the stage to create her own universe and share it intimately with the audience. ‘A New Day’ will show Céline’s immense talent in a new art form. We hope to heighten and intensify the senses so that each spectator leaves the show seeing more than they did the day before.”

To date, Dion has sold over 155 million albums worldwide, making her the biggest selling female artist of all time. She is joined in the Colosseum by 60 dancers. For this spectacle, guests pay $87.50 for inexpensive seats to $150 to $200 for the best in the house.

“This show marks a turning point in my professional journey,” Dion said. “It will guide me to self-discovery, to push the limits of performance and offer a new stage experience to my devoted fans.”

It also marks a turning point in electrical jobs—a project full of superlatives that will be seen by literally millions of people over the next few years.

HARLER, a frequent contributor to SECURITY & LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He can be reached at 440.238.4556 or curt@curtharler.com.


About the Author

Curt Harler

Freelance Writer
Curt Harler, a frequent contributor to SECURITY + LIFE SAFETY SYSTEMS, is based in Strongsville, Ohio. He also can be reached at 440.238.4556.

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