What's the Score?
A guide to the newest system options and choosing the best scoreboard for your facility
By Kimberly Tobin
You've no doubt seen them in action. Beyond keeping the vital stats of an athletic competition, they wow the crowds with vibrant moves and impressive shots, can be a source of revenue for owners, and even help athletes train better.
No, they're not the star players on the court—they're the scoreboards. These days, these electronic wonders can enhance an athletic program in many ways, so when it's time to shop for a system, knowing what's out there and what to look for will help match the right scoreboard to your facility.
From simple systems to high-end video matrix boards, today's boards can offer the basic game essentials like period, score and clock in clearer, brighter ways, while higher-end systems can generate revenue, entertain the crowd and help coaches enhance practice sessions.
Because there are so many choices, knowing your exact programming and site needs is key to selecting a system with the right mix of features.
Once the scope of your needs is defined, narrowing down the perfect board begins with looking at features and functionality in your price range.
At the less-expensive end, multipurpose boards are leading a trend. They're versatile, economical and ideal for facilities with many sports venues and limited budgets. New models include full, four-digit timing clocks that can count up or down to measure field use or time periods. Customers can personalize the field or identify a sponsor within a copy area, and officials can change the sport they're scoring just by changing the captions.
"A basic board with a clock, score and period/inning indicator also can be adapted to a general scoreboard that may not have all the information for a specific game, but if multiple sports are played, it can be adequate to do the job," says Jeff Reeser, national sales manager for a scoreboard supplier.
For a sport that has specific needs, like swimming, a basic system usually just needs to display a running clock, place finishes, number of finishers and finish time. Basic systems also can be adapted and expanded later.
For Ed Wingfield, running the swim meets at the Hampshire Regional YMCA in Northampton, Mass., began with the basics. Last year the organization purchased a single-line board and timing system that rotates basic information. As they grew, they added to the system.
"When we started, we were smaller, and funding was limited," Wingfield says. "Then, as we got bigger, we installed touch pads on the lanes a season later. That was followed by a scrolling line we added, which gave meet information. That's been great because we can put welcome messages and give people information. The expandability has been nice."
As budgets go up and allow more bells and whistles, options can include anything from message boards to video animation to high-definition TV.
For swim boards, installing touch pads on each lane can send electronic signals to a computer with a timing interface and display each lane finish. Software packages for swim boards also can help pace swimmers as they practice, allowing a workout in each lane in the scoreboard.
Once you determine budget and capacity and know the general type of board needed, there is a variety of options to consider, from lighting to communication signals.