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Feature Article - October 2012

Lighting the Way

Innovations & Applications of LED Scoreboards & Sports Field Lighting

By Kelli Anderson


Just when you think it can't get any better, it does. At 42-feet-by-124-feet, one of the newest scoreboards in the country was unveiled this August at the Ohio State University, and is just one of the latest in a string of high-def video scoreboards that is making news around the country for ever bigger, brighter, badder visuals and crowd-pleasing features.

In recent years, LED technology has been applauded for its energy efficiency and lower maintenance requirements, lowering its production cost price tag with every passing year and extending the useful life of equipment. No wonder, then, that it has become ubiquitous in scoreboard systems and sports field lighting.

But thanks to an economy that continues to put the squeeze on budgets, sporting facilities and organizations are looking for even more affordable, multitasking equipment and ways to save money and generate revenue. And with a sporting culture that has extended its love of big screen, HD video in the living room to the athletic venues, those same sporting facilities and organizations are being asked to provide even more visual entertainment at the same time. Enter the humble scoreboard. Humble no more.

Technological advancements in the past one to two years have certainly answered the call for both buyers and spectators alike. Providing greater color selections, more flexible designs, lower light-polluting technology and even greater energy efficiency, the improvements keep coming, offering something for just about everyone, both modest budgets and large.

"There is a whole new world of capabilities to think about," said Dave Verhoeven, a manager of scoreboard product development with one well-established industry leader based in London, Ontario, Canada. "Unveiling scoreboards comes with anticipation and excitement like never before."

Video Games

Verhoeven, like many others in his field, said he's seeing a shift from more traditional fixed digital scoreboards to LED video boards, as well as to a blend of LED digital and video boards (called hybrids). While these boards are mostly found in college facilities, they are making their way into high schools, thanks to improvements in LED production and a reduction of manufacturing costs.

The advantages of video seem obvious. These virtual scoreboards go above and beyond fixed images of scores and stats, and can entertain the crowds with live game action and replays, showcase creative openers, and display content that integrates events into the game. They get the spectators involved with crowd prompts, interactive games and also offer a wider revenue source with advertising capabilities. Pretty impressive bells. Pretty impressive whistles.

Flexibility

But the appeal of LED video screens isn't just skin deep. It's also about flexibility with products that allow users to plan for their specific facilities.

"One trend of video displays is that they are no longer just about the sporting event on the field, but a gathering place for all kinds of campus and community events. They're being used in graduations and celebrations," said Angela Hatton, veteran manager with a manufacturer of scoreboards known to service humble high schools as well as world-class Olympic venues. "It's an electronic canvas with whatever content you want. They're being integrated in a lot of ways that truly become a community spot with all kinds of opportunities to meet a school's needs. They are a display to be the backdrop for the gathering."

Then there is the aspect of portability and modular systems that also make today's scoreboards that much more flexible. Portability, nothing particularly new, is certainly still popular and allows a scoreboard to perform its duties inside, outside and pretty much anywhere it's needed. Modular systems, too, while part of the more elaborate video screen genre, are moveable elements of a display that can morph from athletic application to full-on stage production eye-candy for concerts and other crowd-pleasing events.

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