Getting SoFI Ready for Its Kickoff Closeup

State-of-the-Art SoFi Complex a Learning Experience for Sound & Communications Crew

Working on any part of the $5 billion SoFi Stadium complex in Inglewood certainly comes with bragging rights. But for the Local 11 Sound & Communications crew completing the final stages of the stadium’s state-of-the-art build out – particularly the IT cabling, infrastructure and giant video walls at the YouTube Theater and NFL Media Center – SoFI has been a fun and challenging assignment.

You can feel the pride and excitement when PTL Electric Foreman Eric Cruz and owner Joe Gonzalez show off their company’s work at the 300-acre Stadium complex over the past year and a half. “We’ve installed 800 flat screen TVs throughout the facility – in the conferences room, green room, screening rooms, plus, speakers, cameras on the Oculus and more,” said Gonzalez.

Cruz freely admits that one of the highlights of his career was being certified to work on the Oculus – the giant video board hanging over the stadium that features 80 million pixels – installing the cameras. “It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of,” he said.

He rattles off the accomplishments his team has already done: SoFi’s 2nd floor data center, the 7th floor control center and 46 production cameras around the stadium. He can also check off the YouTube Performing Arts Center and the almost completed NFL Media Center. Given the size of the area and the scope of the work, it’s not unusual for Cruz and his crew members to put in up to 21,000 steps a day on the job.

At the newly-named YouTube Theater, Cruz’s 13-member crew was responsible for four scopes of work: broadcast, production, rigging and sound reinforcement, and AV. As they walk around the theater, Cruz and Gonzalez show off the intricacies of what the PTL crew has accomplished in the span of their seven months on the job,  transforming the facility into a first-class media experience.

They point out the switch boxes hidden in the wall and the cables, sharing a laugh as they recall tales of burnt fingers of crew members from hours of soldering wires and cables.

“We installed over 120 TVs, 4 video walls and dozens of broadcast JBT video boxes from the roof to the orchestra level,” Cruz said. “This is a place I can proudly show off to my kids – all the work we’ve done here.”

State-of-the-Art SoFi Complex a Learning Experience for Sound & Communications Crew

With the YouTube Theater complete, the crew has shifted over to the new 200,000 square-foot NFL Media Center to rough in hundreds more video screens, mounts and wiring for their audio and the huge video screens that the sportscasters will need to call the plays. The Media Center is another state-of-the-art facility featuring 2110 IP.

Here, the scope of work is smaller. “We’re handling all the audio/video. There’s not as many wire pulls, no fiber, but lots of cat 6 cable and TV and video walls,” Cruz noted. “We’re learning as a team. Ethernet, Fiber optic cables, hybrid cables: SMPTE fiber optic  and copper cables, audio, intercom and video. It’s a lot.”

Work is expected to end in early August, after some five months on the job. These days you’ll find the crew working lots of overtime – sometimes 10 hours a day, six days a week, to help bring the project in on time.

Cruz doesn’t mind the 120-mile round trip home each day. Although he spends hours in traffic, “it beats prison and running in the streets,” he said with a laugh. Even a daily 5 am start time doesn’t deter him. “We get off at 1:30 and have the rest of the afternoon to ourselves,” Cruz said.

Cruz has a contagious laugh that sticks with his crew. They’re devoted to their foreman, who they say mentors and takes care of his extended work family. “I like to teach them,” Cruz said.  “We’re all learning this new technology together. They’re the next generation, so it’s important they learn from us.”

Gonzalez and Cruz have worked together on and off for over nine years. They had both been non-union and both joined the union in the past few years. “Joining the union is the best decision I’ve ever made. I knew I would have a better future, better morale and great pay. This the happiest I’ve even been in my career,” Cruz said.

SoFi has been an amazing, if exhausting, job. “I have great bragging rights to my friends and family working on this job. It’s really cool how well designed and planned this whole job has been,” Cruz said.

Gonzalez agreed. It certainly has been one of the best, most exciting projects his company has worked on, and he’s grateful to IBEW 11 for the opportunity.

Crew safety has always been a priority, and COVID has made protecting the workers much more difficult.

“It was a big challenge to stay safe and healthy during the pandemic,” Gonzalez said. “We had daily safety meetings with Diversified, the contractor we are working under on the job. And we all had to get tested regularly. But we all came through.”

COVID also presented other headaches – particularly delays in supplies and materials.

 “Trying to stay ahead of materials to meet very demanding deadlines was definitely the biggest challenge of this job,” Gonzalez said. “There were very long lead times on everything, but the schedule never stopped.”

“NFL football season is coming up soon, so the schedule can’t wait.”

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