Coolidge, AZ... Less than an hour south of downtown Phoenix lies the Casa Grande Ruins, one of America's oldest prehistoric and cultural preserves. Built by the Pueblo peoples who farmed the Gila Valley in the early 13th century, the ruins include the remains of several ancient Hohokam structures, as well as elaborate irrigation systems. The largest of these structures is a massive four-story edifice whose adobe walls have withstood the harsh desert climate for more than 700 years.
Designated a national monument in 1918, the grounds are protected and preserved by the National Parks Service. In the late 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps built a handful of administrative buildings adjacent to the ruins, using traditional rammed earth techniques similar to those used in the original structures.
Little has changed since 1940, until now. Designed and built by Phoenix firm Nagaki Design Build Associates, the newly expanded Visitors Center recently opened its doors. Those touring the ruins can now begin their journey by immersing themselves in a powerful video presentation that teaches them about the history of the ruins, and of the tribes who built them.
The center includes a modestly sized multi-purpose theater, outfitted with state-of-the-art HD video and full surround sound. Designed and installed by Muncie, Indiana-based No Limits AV, the audio system utilizes five Renkus-Heinz CF-Series loudspeakers. Three CFX81 two-way 8-inch speakers cover system's left, right, and center channels, while the surrounds are handled by a pair of CFX61 two-way 6 1/2–inch speakers.
"We've done a number of projects in our National Parks, and we've used Renkus-Heinz loudspeakers on several," explains Brent Gardiner, No Limits AV's Lead Technician. "This particular theater was similar in size and scope to another theater we'd recently completed. We liked the way the Renkus-Heinz speakers performed, with good sound and good intelligibility. We liked the way they looked, and we liked the ease with which they installed. So it made sense to use it again on this project."
The theater is also used for live presentations, including local historians and visiting professors, covering such topics as Native American artwork, desert flora and fauna, and other related subjects. The system is set up to easily accommodate input from a laptop computer or other presentation source.
Gardiner says the theater's rammed earth walls added an interesting element to the room's acoustics. "The architect's vision was to convey the experience of coming inside the big adobe house, and the earthen walls have a significantly higher R value (insulation) than modern drywall," he explains. "Acoustically, the walls are naturally very absorbent, and the system sounds even better than we had anticipated."
"It's a really interesting place," Gardiner concludes. "People come away from there with a new understanding of the history of these peoples. It's a great feeling to know we've helped to connect them with that knowledge."