LINCOLN — It’s been almost 60 years since Adam Karavas graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1958, and although his season tickets at Husker home games haven’t changed in that time, the Memorial Stadium game-day experience is as different as night and day.
Karavas, now 81 and with a Sept. 30 semi-retirement beckoning, knows that better than almost anyone.
That’s because the 238,000 watts’ worth of sound that echoes in and around Memorial Stadium’s main bowl on football Saturdays travels through hundreds of thousands of feet of cable that were carefully planned and installed by Lincoln-based Electronic Contracting Co.
“They used to have just three Altec horn (speakers) under the east deck, and you couldn’t hear (anything),” said Karavas, president of the company he founded when he finished school in ’58 and has seen grow into one that today has five offices and between $25 million and $30 million in annual revenue.
The Memorial Stadium sound situation changed when Electronic Contracting got in on a bid to overhaul the stadium’s loudspeaker system in 1994, and again 20 years later, when the company contributed to a $12.3 million project that tasked it with installing new systems, including audio and video to the main bowl, locker rooms and suites.
“That was a fantastic job for Downs Electric (the general contractor for the project) and it was a fantastic job for us,” Karavas said.
Shot Kleen, assistant athletic director for UNL athletics’ HuskerVision, said the stadium’s first big speaker relied on brute force to broadcast sound throughout the facility. That signal was susceptible to the elements and was far less consistent than the technology that’s in place today.
The latest upgrade features not only self-explanatory loudspeakers, but also so-called “single-point” speakers that are focused on precise locations in the facility’s far ends. Today, Husker fans almost 1,000 feet away from the main sound system in South Stadium hear everything as clearly as fans seated directly underneath the North Stadium speaker array.
Kleen, who has been with HuskerVision since 1994, said the work done by local firms like Electronic Contracting and Kidwell Electric makes it far easier to diagnose and follow up on needed adjustments.
“They all have a connection with the university, so it’s like they’re part of the team,” Kleen said.
Over a career that spans more than half a century, Karavas has landed himself a part on many other teams: Work in recent years has included the main sound system and audio/visual systems at the nearby Pinnacle Bank Arena and broadcast cabling and supporting sound systems at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
When regional big-leaguers in Kansas City issued requests for proposals in the early 1970s, Electronic Contracting answered the call. There, it landed jobs at Kauffman Stadium, home of Major League Baseball’s Royals, and at Arrowhead Stadium, home of the National Football League’s Chiefs.
Karavas founded the company as Electronic Equipment Supply Co. in 1958 and later sold it to local businessman Duane Acklie. But Karavas retained his role as president.
Since the early days, “professional sound” has been a major driver of growth, and clients aren’t limited to operators of high-profile sports complexes.
“We started doing a few churches about 10 years after we did the Chiefs and Royals stadiums, and now it’s tons of churches and tons of colleges,” Karavas said.
The company has also found a healthy niche in higher-end retirement centers, where Electronic Contracting installs and programs amenities like wireless call systems for nurses and even small theaters.
And business is still brisk when it comes to other wired systems like fire alarms, intercoms and even synchronized clocks. Those were just a few services the company installed for upgrades at Bryan Health’s two Lincoln campuses.
Come Sept. 30, Karavas says he won’t be straying too far from the company’s Lincoln headquarters on 70th Street just north of Cornhusker Highway. That’s when he begins a five-year contract to oversee the company after handing over the reins to John Dodds, a 35-year Electronic Contracting veteran and the current executive vice president.
“This is my baby, so it would be like walking away from one of my kids,” Karavas said. “I’ll be around a lot.”