The Perfect Score
Selecting the right scoreboard and timing systems for your needs
By Kelli Anderson
Go to any pro sporting event, and you're sure to be wowed by the latest scoreboard displays—from full-color-live-action video capturing spectator-pleasing crowd shots and instant replays to impressive animated graphics—all while still getting the essential game-related information.
It's a far cry from the days of manually changed numbers or clicky electro-mechanical relays. Scoreboards still provide the essential elements of the score, clock and period but, with the advent of more sophisticated technology, can now function also as entertainment, a practice tool for educators and coaches, and even a revenue-generator. Knowing your own programming and facility needs and understanding what scoreboard products offer will help in the selection process.
Today, the two most popular scoreboards are the incandescent and LED (light emitting diode). Although both technologies have been available since the '70s, it has only been since the '90s that the LED scoreboards have come into their own when the brightness and viewing angle of the LEDs were greatly improved. Prior to the improvements, the LED had more limited applications, while the incandescent dominated the scoreboard industry.
Pros and cons within the two varieties are considerable. Incandescents are still highly favored for their low cost and long life, with some scoreboards still ticking after 30 years of use. However, incandescents become costly over time when power sources and maintenance costs are factored into the equation. And when bulbs burn out at the wrong time or are poorly maintained, scoring information can become downright impossible to read.
"It's a lower cost purchase up front," says Dan Bierschback, sports products engineering manager of a scoreboard company. "But if you look at the lifetime costs, the incandescent is more because you have to swing that ladder up, and you have to also bring in a heavier power source to run an incandescent board."
An LED uses 1/10 of the electricity needed for an incandescent bulb, lasts longer, and its solid-state design requires little to no maintenance (read: no lamps to screw in). They are an all-around performer for indoor, outdoor, daytime and nighttime with their ability to adjust brightness from the scoreboard console. Their technology allows a wide variety of viewing displays and adaptable uses from single-line scrolling messages to full-blown matrix products with programmable displays for different sports and applications.
But LEDs have their dark side, too. The upfront cost, although coming down, is still prohibitive for some buyers, and the brightness of an LED board can fade over time—albeit, decades. In addition, not all LEDs are created equal. A good dot pattern will appear seamless, but the dot pattern of some designs can make digits and wording appear, well, dotty.