An IMAX Theater Is Transformed into a State-of-the-art Broadcast and Production Facility for the Tennis Channel, Bally Sports

Clune Construction, broadcast studio, Tennis Channel, IMAX theater

The Tennis Channel is the only multiplatform, 24/7 destination dedicated to the professional sport of tennis and the tennis lifestyle. The network, which launched in Culver City, Calif., in 2001, had outgrown its studio and representatives wanted to bring production and corporate offices together in the same location. In 2018, network leaders made the bold decision to create a new headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif. This new space would incorporate Bally Sports West and Bally Sports SoCal facilities and cater to its champion staff and outstanding broadcasting capabilities.

While traditional broadcast facilities focus on dimly lit technical spaces, the Tennis Channel created a light-filled space. Existing clerestory windows remain uncovered, and living, green walls were installed to bring the outdoors inside.

Network leaders selected a 63,000-square-foot former IMAX theater as the site to carry out their vision. After the theater closed, the building was decommissioned by a streaming workout service that had partially built-out the space but then never utilized it. The space was unoccupied for a period of time before the Tennis Channel moved in.

Leadership envisioned a headquarters that would showcase the Tennis Channel’s work, the sport of tennis and inspire creative minds to develop great productions. The former IMAX theater was the ideal space for this. The size of the building suited the Tennis Channel’s needs for an open office and the existing open areas accommodated the construction of the studios. The space was left in nearly perfect condition from the previous tenants, so the project teams were able to get started immediately.

Completed in April 2021, the Tennis Channel’s new headquarters includes open office workspaces, private offices, collaboration areas, upgraded conference rooms, an employee pantry and dining area. Three new film and broadcast studios, green rooms and editing suites also were constructed. The facility’s control room, the nerve center for the broadcasting station, features dozens of monitors, editing stations and AV systems.

From the beginning, the team ran into challenges, starting with the permitting process. General Contractor Clune Construction was brought on early in the project because of its team’s familiarity with Santa Monica’s stringent permitting guidelines and the permit expeditor.

After the team acquired the initial building permit, the client made significant changes to the design, so the process started over again. Clune Construction had the ability to advise the design team and the client about what to include based on municipality allowances. As a result, construction was able to continue in one part of the building while the other awaited a new permit.

To stay on track, the team pre-purchased some of the critical equipment, including the large generator that would power the production facility. Because of permitting delays, the generator spent months sitting in a warehouse. The Tennis Channel had a set date to begin broadcasting from the new studios, so the team had installed a temporary generator, which required entirely separate permitting. It was a challenge to find the correct-sized temporary generator because California’s wildfire season was in full swing and utility entities were renting out their generators for that purpose. After managing to acquire the temporary generator, Clune Construction quickly obtained yet another permit for installation. The channel was able to go live on time.

DURING: Before Bally Sports/the Tennis Channel acquired the former theater, a streaming workout service had partially built-out the space but never utilized it. The space was unoccupied for a period of time but was left in nearly perfect condition so the project team was able to get started immediately. PHOTO: Marcos Torreblanca and Adam Beck

One of the most innovative features of this project is the facility’s central equipment room, or server room. Situated between two of the studios, the server room includes 29 racks. This amount of AV/server equipment could easily overheat and cause noise disruptions to the studios. To remedy this, the team installed a cold aisle in between the rows of racks to create a path of air circulation that would take in cold air and pull it down to the racks while pushing the hot air out. These cold racks run 24/7 to protect the facility from overheating.

The sensitive nature of the technical equipment in the production control room, server rooms and studios required the installation of multiple rooftop units to ensure the broadcast and editing equipment would not overheat. This included a large air-handling unit that outputs 75 tons of air. The building was divided into a lower and upper portion. The air-handling unit was designed to sit on the lower portion, which at the time only consisted of insulation and metal decking. The team installed structural grid beams that were welded together prior to installation to support the weight and prevent roof collapse. The air handler was then installed on top of the beams.

With the headquarters located near the ocean, the roof also required pressure-treated lumber to maintain its quality because of the salinity in the air. The team ensured the materials were high-quality and constructed perfectly to withstand years of exposure to the elements.

PHOTOS: Gensler/Ryan Garvin unless otherwise noted

About the Author

Denise DeSisto
Denise DeSisto began her career in the construction industry in 1989, working in various roles, including estimating and project management. Today, she serves as vice president, project executive for Clune Construction. Throughout her career, DeSisto has been recognized for her dedication to executing complex projects on tight schedules while maintaining strong relationships with clients.

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