Feature Article - March 2004
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The Perfect Score

Selecting the right scoreboard and timing systems for your needs

By Kelli Anderson


WIRED OR WIRELESS?

Another important scoreboard feature to consider is the communication signal—wired or wireless. The wired scoreboard, like Old Faithful, can boast of its reliability and its ability to be seen as a visual landmark or focal point in a stadium or field.

In the last five years, however, wireless has become a hot option.

"This is one of the newest technologies in scoreboards in the last 30 years," says Peter Cowen, president of a scoreboard manufacturer. "It really saves a lot of money in the installation of the scoreboard since you don't have to dig up a field or cut across sprinkler lines."

Although the scoreboard is still tethered to a power source, the control panel communicates to the scoreboard through radio signals. For the truly footloose and fancy-free, portable scoreboards can also be free of electrical cabling by running on solar-powered batteries.

The advantages in running fewer cables to either the control panel or to the scoreboard itself are ideal for several scenarios: for fields used for multiple sports, for fields built on refurbished landfill sites, little-league sports always on the get-up-and-go, for older facilities where wiring and cables cannot be easily located without costly excavation, or for newer facilities looking to save money on installation costs. Even Mother Nature gives an approving nod to wireless with the fringe benefit of improved lightening protection.

However, wireless equipment can also be more easily damaged. Not only does their portability subject them to more opportunities for abuse, but because they are more lightweight than their tethered counterparts, they have been known to blow over in windy conditions. Also, with a reliance on rechargeable batteries, it becomes essential to know if the equipment's power will last—especially in a large competition.

Finally, there is the possibility that communication can get interrupted.

"One has to bear in mind that wireless, as good as it is, isn't perfect," Bierschbach says, "If you've got a cell phone, you can attest to that—you can lose connections. One thing to consider if you are going to have a large competition, where there is more at stake, is to put in a wired connection as a backup."

Manufactures as well as veteran athletic directors will be quick to tell you that having a wired backup makes good sense.

BACK TO THE BASICS

Then, of course, a scoreboard needs to be selected depending on its intended use. Any sport that needs a clock, score, and period or inning indicator can be adapted to a general scoreboard that may not have all the information wished for but which is adequate to get the job done. Looking for upgradeable products is one way to ensure that if not all bells and whistles can be purchased, they can at least be added, as needed, over time.

"Because they're so basic, they can be used to score multiple sports and are often the first choice for budget-conscious programs," explains Roger Selesky, regional sales manager for a scoreboard manufacturer. "Other sports-specific features can be added: tracking time-outs, downs, yardage and quarters for football; innings, ball counts, outs and at-bats for baseball; and shots, saves and halves for soccer, among others."


KEEPING COSTS DOWN

Who wouldn't like to have the Rolls Royce of all scoreboards? But facing reality means facing a budget and living within its constraints—it's the No. 1 factor shaping scoreboard-buying decisions. But with a little creative thinking and a forward-looking strategy, having fewer dollars doesn't mean having to settle.

  • Think long-term. Short-term cost isn't all it's cracked up to be when power efficiency, quality of product and cost of maintenance are taken into account. The higher sticker price may be cheaper in the end.
  • If short-term budgets are impossible to stretch, consider buying products with upgradeable features to increase capabilities over time.
  • If LED is your dream board, but your budget won't budge, consider purchasing a single-line scoreboard that rotates through information or game results with upgradeable capability to expand the unit when money allows.
  • For many who purchased incandescent scoreboards in the last few years before LED was as feasible and for whom convincing taxpayers and those in charge of the purse strings that a perfectly good scoreboard needs "replacing," consider retrofitting existing boards with LED components. This costs less than buying an entirely new scoreboard and will reduce operational costs in the bargain.
  • Buy a generic scoreboard for sports like basketball, wrestling and volleyball, which may not have all the sport-specific-details, but it is certainly more cost-effective than buying three different boards.
  • Factory-direct products cut out the middleman and pass cost savings on to the customer.
  • Choosing a scoreboard painted with a powder-coated finish can save money and maintenance headaches. Powder-coated finishes, popular for some time on playground equipment, is now an option with some scoreboard products and lasts two- and three-times longer than traditional painted finishes.