By Andrea Arnold
The McBride Community Centre is finally receiving some upgrades that will vastly improve the sound quality in the main hall area.
The original hall design included full-length acoustic block walls on the two longer sides, which would have included internal baffles. But with a vision to use the hall for floor hockey, basketball and other sports, the facilities manager at the time had the architect change the plans resulting in plywood surfaces.
Dale Stephens, a member of the Roadside Splinters, a band that often performs in the space as well as a member of the Community Consultation Committee, is thrilled to see the change finally happening.
Stephens says with most of the surfaces in the hall being hard, the reverberation time (RT) on sound was so long that it made any sound a cacophony. In 2017 he was approached by facilities manager Lyle Lewis to see what could be done to improve the sound.
“Using acoustic software, I tested the acoustics in the hall and determined an RT of 4.5 seconds,” said Stephens. “This is how long the sound bounces around until it cannot be heard. If you can imagine that every sound that is made reverberates (bounces around) for almost 5 seconds.”
During an event there are hundreds of sounds being made all at once.
“It is a continuum of sounds, some fading, some just being made, some half-done.”
Stephens says that it becomes like white noise with no single sound discernible. For people who are hearing impaired or have hearing aids, it has been nearly impossible to fully enjoy events held at the hall.
In every type of architecture, there are expected reverb times. For example, a gymnasium should come in under three seconds and lecture halls should have a one to 1.5 second RT time.
The 60 panels that have been installed along the ceiling of the Community Centre, in addition to panels that have been installed on the walls of the stage area should, according to the modeled engineering, reduce the original 4.5 reverb reading down to closer to 1.25.
“This is excellent,” said Stephens.
The installation has been a long time coming. The sound issue has plagued events since the building was built in 2007. Following the testing the Stephens performed in 2017, they received
quotes from acoustic companies inline with the Regional Districts procurement policies, and a
company out of Edmonton, Western Noise Control Acoustic Solutions, came up with an
excellent solution at a reasonable price.
“Unfortunately the proposed budget was repeatedly not approved,” said Stephens.
Following a $5000 donation by the McBride Old Timers Hockey Club, approval was still not granted.
In 2021 Lewis asked Stephens to request a re-quote from Acoustic Solutions as he felt the money was in the budget to complete the project.
“The company held its price from the original quote,” said Stephens. “Once again the budget was not approved by the Regional District.”
In the summer of 2022, the Community Consultation Committee put forward a motion to be presented by Regional District elected representative Dannielle Allen, and Council Regional District Board Member Alan Frederick.
“In August 2022 the Board accepted our motion and passed the resolution,” said Stephens.
The project, supplies and installation comes in at $25,787 without applicable taxes. The Recreation Centre capital budget has covered the amount not covered by the Oldtimers donation.
Employees from Western Noise Control Engineered Acoustic Solutions installed the baffles on Wednesday and Thursday this past week, and the difference in sound even part way through installation was noticeable.
Stephens is thrilled to see the improvements being made.
“I fought the decision to alter the original design, and I have fought to have it mitigated ever since,” he said. “It will make a world of difference to every gathering or performance.”