When the San Jose McEnery Convention Center needed a new lighting system that could support the multi-use, high-production-value conventions their clients expect, they turned to high-tech lighting.
The San Jose McEnery Convention Center now has one of the most advanced lighting systems in the country. “The previous sodium light fixtures were from the ’80s,” says Gabriel Nemeth, Director of Event Operations. “Advances in technology and changing client demands put us behind the times.” This was particularly true for tradeshows that demand multiple functions, with some sections being used for keynotes and others for booths.
Clients would ask for dimmed lights over the keynote area and bright light in the tradeshow sections—something the old system couldn’t do, costing the client more money to get the effect they wanted.
The sodium fixtures were also unflattering. “It felt like you were in an old warehouse or a big box store,” says Tim Foster, director of production at Team San Jose. Foster, Nemeth, and their team wanted the cooler, bluer color temperature lighting of 4000K to give the space the feel of natural sunlight.
Finally, whatever new system they adapted had to work on 277V power, so the convention center wouldn’t have to install an expensive transformer. With their needs outlined, Team San Jose Chief Operating Officer Dave Costain entrusted general manager of Convention Center Operations Ewell Steiner, Nemeth and Foster to make it happen.
For guidance to a solution, Team San Jose turned to Mike Wunder, CEO of Wunder Lighting and Controls in the Bay Area. Wunder pointed them to the GDS ArcSystem from ETC. “There were a lot of positives with ETC and GDS,” says Wunder. In addition to being able to give them the 4000K color temperature, individual fixture dimming, and operate at 277V, the output from the ArcSystem fixtures was high enough that they were able to reduce the number of fixtures they needed to install. “Because of output we were able to use 300 less fixtures—a significant amount.”
“The ArcSystem fixtures were easy to install and we were knocking out four or five rows of fixtures a day because they were they were so user-friendly,” says Curtis Barkle of Stronghold Engineering, the electrical contractor on the project. Barkle and Stronghold were responsible for demolishing the old ceiling structure, prepping and updating the ceiling infrastructure, then installing 554 ArcSystem Pro Eight-Cell fixtures. “When the fixtures arrived they were exactly as anticipated, making it quick and easy to install and wire the system to the client’s expectations. The on-time completion of this project could not have been possible without the help and coordination of ETC and Michael Wunder.”
Team San Jose also credited the help of San Jose Public Works Senior Engineer Tony Andary and Associate Engineer Huimin Mu for allowing the whole renovation to meet a very tight timeline.
“Every lighting designer who’s come in here in and tied into the system has told me this is one of the coolest buildings they’ve ever been in,” says Foster. Lighting designers love the ability to control individual fixtures, whether for large sections of the hall like a keynote, or to dim the house lights above a booth to highlight the special lighting for one particular client.
Access to ETC’s advanced control system is provided through Paradigm’s 7-in. and 18-ft. touchscreens, which Team San Jose can customize for each show. “I think for me one of the highlights of the system is controllability, “adds Nemeth. “Controllability of either a whole hall, a row of lights, or an individual fixture, with flawless dimming from 100% all the way down to zero is unprecedented.”