What would you think the “world’s coolest office” might be?
How about a place that combines a company headquarters with a training center for elite athletes? Add a bright, open design to encourage collaboration and a high-tech conference center, and you are describing the new SKLZ headquarters in Carlsbad CA. Inc. Magazine readers chose it as one of the top 10 “World’s Coolest Offices” in 2013.
‘Serious’ Training Products
SKLZ, which designs and manufactures training products for serious athletes at any level, has had a long-standing partnership with EXOS, which offers performance training, physical therapy and nutrition support to professionals, amateurs and youth athletes. (For example, EXOS has trained seven number one National Football League draft picks, the 2014 World Cup champion German National Soccer Team, Olympic medalists and countless champions in baseball, tennis, golf, basketball and hockey). So, when SKLZ managers began planning for a new headquarters and warehouse, they invited EXOS to open a training facility in the same building.
“We wanted to bring the two together, to create a laboratory where we could run ideas by their coaches and athletes, ask questions and test new products,” explained Misty Madrid, SKLZ Human Resources Director, who was very involved in the technology planning and installation. In return, the EXOS staff and athletes have a chance to use the best new training products before they are released to the public.
Crucial to the success of this extraordinary new facility is AV technology designed and installed by Portland OR-based CompView Audio Visual (compview.com).
Office, Conference Facilities
As you walk into the new SKLZ facility, you’re struck by its open architecture. Carved out of a large warehouse structure, the spaces have high ceilings, big windows and few walls.
The lobby and first floor visitor areas are striking for two reasons. First, they occupy a 2½-story loft space set up with a number of digital, graphic and physical displays highlighting the company’s products and values. Second, this is obviously a company managed and staffed by sports enthusiasts.
For example, there’s a Sharp LED monitor behind the receptionist’s desk, and it can play welcome messages and company promotional and instructional videos. However, as likely as not, it’s showing the biggest game or sporting event going on in the world that day. The same is true of a 9’x14½’ projection setup in the visitor area.
The first floor also includes a photo studio that allows the company to shoot still images and videos of athletes using its products. Included in the studio is a Mitsubishi projector and 12’x16′ screen, often tuned to the day’s big game but also available for the room’s secondary use as a meeting space.
The offices and work spaces are located on the second floor, together with a “Nourishment Area” for breaks and lunch (also outfitted with Sony 55-inch TVs generally tuned to sporting events), a digital message board playing company news and four conference rooms, unique in that they are among the few spaces in the building with doors. “Employees can use them for meetings or even when they feel a need for a quiet place to work,” Madrid said.
The biggest of these, the “Skybox,” occupies the second story of a glass and steel open-topped structure, set on giant casters in the open visitors’ area. Whether it could actually be rolled about the facility or not, its large, internally-facing floor-to-ceiling windows provide a birds-eye view of what’s going on in the company and next door at the EXOS training facility.
A highlight of the Skybox is a 5’x9′ motorized dnp Supernova projection screen that drops out of the ceiling on nearly invisible steel cables. “It looks like a large flat screen floating in the center of one of the windows,” said Steve Gordon, an account executive for CompView’s San Diego office. “The mechanism is hidden by an I-beam just below the roof, so all you see is the screen and its two-inch black borders. It’s a really great effect.” In addition, there’s a 3500 lumen Mitsubishi projector mounted in the back of the room and four SoundTube RS500i pendant speakers hanging over the table. “It’s a very clean look and the projected images are superb,” Gordon stated.
The Supernova screen provides a gain of 2.0 but with a very wide viewing angle and good control of ambient light. “It was the obvious choice in this environment, given that there are no curtains on the Skybox windows,” Gordon explained. “Another benefit is that its very high contrast ratio allowed us to use a lower-lumen projector for a more cost-effective solution.”
The SoundTube speakers are also helpful in this glass-walled, hard-surfaced environment. By using them to aim the sound directly at meeting participants, the CompView team was able to minimize reverb and maximize audio clarity.
The Training Facility
The EXOS side of the building houses leading performance training equipment among the array of SKLZ products, and it includes a 40-yard-dash track, a practice field and outdoor hot and cold tubs. A large mural with the company motto, however, sets the training tone: “Prepare for it. Fuel for it. Train for it. Rest for it.” The motto is an ode to EXOS’ four pillars of Mindset, Nutrition, Movement and Recovery.
CompView installed background music systems based on Extron amplifiers and SoundTube speakers throughout the workout areas, plus Sony large-screen displays and sound systems in two conference rooms, including a large classroom used to teach EXOS’ training systems during education courses.
CompView also installed a unique monitor lift in the “coaches room” at EXOS for a cognitive assessment tool from Axon Sports. The system helps athletes develop cognitive skills through “mental reps” (for example, to help a quarterback recognize blitz coverages or a hitter recognize a type of pitch based on video drills), and it allows coaches to establish baselines for individual athletes that can later be used in testing for concussions.
Santa Ana CA-based Advanced Mounting & Design (AMD) custom made the lift to raise and lower a 65-inch Ideum touchscreen display over a two-foot range to accommodate the heights of various athletes. That’s a crucial consideration, considering the physical difference that can exist between players of, say, baseball and basketball.
Gordon said that, in designing the AV systems for SKLZ and EXOS, simplicity and reliability were the most important considerations. Their users would have enough on their plates without worrying about how to make the AV work.
“For example, we recommended AMX Inspired Signage XPress because it’s a really solid, straightforward product,” he explained. Inspired XPress gives SKLZ a simplified software interface that allows staff to quickly create messages or assemble SKLZ videos on a PC, then send them to players mounted behind the displays or next to the projectors. The players reside on the company’s IP network, so installation was simple and economical, as well.
“AMX also offers software training and was able to send an instructor to Carlsbad to train the SKLZ staff onsite,” Gordon said. “SKLZ had never used anything like this before, and there was a bit of a learning curve. However, the training was excellent.”
“The AV systems are all plug and play, and very user friendly,” Madrid added. “You just take your laptop into a conference room and you can show a presentation on the big screen, or show team members something you’re working on.”
Madrid explained that the design and construction process was lengthy, but the technology installations went very well and “the systems have been working great.” In addition to day-to-day operations, SKLZ has hosted a number of other companies’ events and meetings, including board meetings. “They like the unique look of the facility and the projection and sound.”
All in all, it’s a really cool place…in fact, one of the world’s coolest.
Don Kreski is President of Kreski Marketing Consultants, Inc., which offers marketing planning and creative services to the AV industry. You can reach him at kreski.com/contact.html.
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