Ritchie Brothers Auctioneers, Morris, IL
AUCTIONEER MAKES THE CALL
BAG END is top bid to make the sale
Going to an auction was high adventure for any small boy growing up in rural America. The auctioneer – with his spell-binding, rapid-fire chant – is the star and ringmaster of the show, speaking a seemingly unintelligible language.
What the small lad didn’t realize was the key to the auctioneers success, was to be understood clearly. As auctions became bigger and moved indoors, the need to be clearly understood became a bigger challenge.
One of the largest auctioneers in the world today is R.B. Ritchie Brothers of Vancouver, British Columbia. Ritchie Brothers operates more than 70 auction facilities around the world, in Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and South America, as well as in Canada and the United States.
Ritchie Brothers Expands
As part of an expansion plan, Ritchie Brothers opened a 100-acre auction facility in Morris, IL, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago.
Ritchie Brothers’ has specially-designed their auction facilities with some unique requirements. They specialize in reselling heavy industrial equipment, such as earth-moving equipment, tractor-trailer rigs, and dump trucks of all sizes. Some of that equipment is extremely large, and would not fit into a conventional building.
Therefore, a specialized structure was designed by the auction house. This, essentially, was a three-sided auditorium with a large opening on the fourth wall overlooking an outside viewing ramp. The auditorium contains 850 stadium style seats facing the viewing ramp, with an opening approximately 120 feet wide by 25 feet high. Auctions are held throughout the year, in good weather and bad, so the auditorium is heated with radiant gas overhead heaters and an under-floor recirculating hot water system. A fabric curtain is lowered over the opening to protect the seating area from the elements when not in use .
Slightly below the runway level is a catwalk. The catwalk runs across the front of the seating area where five “bid catchers” are located to encourage and watch for bids. The auctioneer is located on an 8-foot raised auctioneer’s booth which gives him a clear view of both the audience and the bid catchers’ catwalk.
Sound designer Russel L. O’Toole of Audio Electronics, LLC., in Romeoville, IL, faced several major challenges.
“The sound had to have exceptional clarity – after all, hundreds of thousands of dollars ride on some of the bids going back and fourth,” O’Toole said. “And the sound equipment had to be resistant to all kinds of midwest weather. Extremes of 100-degree heat in the summer to 20-below in the winter must be factored in.”
The main speaker arrays are above and at the front of the seating area. They consist of 12 custom-built BAG END TA1200 weather-resistant loudspeaker systems. The cabinets are covered both inside and out with special weather-resistant coating and grill coverings. In addition, the cabinets are loaded with specially coated cones and stainless steel hardware. Six TA1200s are used to cover the front of the seating area. Two arrays of three TA1200s each fill the remainder of the seating area.
“Ritchie’s design called for the last row of three main speakers to be located at the back of the seating area,” O’Toole said. “We argued that the audience’s attention would be focused on the items for sale if the sound orientation was from the front of the audience, where the merchandise was located.”
A Sound Solution
O’Toole successfully persuaded the company to make that change, which also allowed for sound coverage to a gallery area at the rear of the seating area. This approach solved two problems for the client.
The bid catchers’ catwalk is located behind the main array. Four dual, sectoral horns cover this area for increased speech intelligibility. Bid catcher’s are equipped with a push-to-talk Shure 515BSM announce microphone. Overhead speakers are muted by controlling the input channels on the Becon 65150 mixer/amp that drives the bid catchers’ monitors.
A merchandise display area is located in the back for smaller items. This room is covered by four BAG END TA1200 loudspeaker systems. These are flown from the corners of the room so those browsing can stay abreast with the auction under way in the main area.
The auctioneer’s booth is equipped with a Galaxy Model PA5X140 amplified Hot Spot speaker with volume control and he uses hand-held EV N/D257 microphones.
Most importantly, all auction proceedings are recorded in their entirety on a pair of Marantz tape recorders. This protects the auctioneer and the buyer, on the final sale price, in case of a disagreement.