Feature Article - November 2004
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Sports Facility Equipment

Outfitting indoor and outdoor athletic spaces

By Elisa Kronish


"For most facilities, when the budget starts to get tight, the scoreboard is the first thing to go," says Don Paige, president of Paige Design Group, a firm based in Bahama, N.C., which specializes in track-and-field design.

Although he realizes that scoreboards are a high-ticket item, Paige encourages facilities to invest in one upfront. The two most common types of scoreboards are the incandescent and LED (light emitting diode). Incandescents tend to cost less than LED, but replacing bulbs throughout the years can mean cost over time adds up. LED scoreboards last longer, typically provide better visibility at severe angles, and offer flexibility in brightness adjustment as well as displays, such as single-line scrolling or programmable data for specific sports. Still, LEDs are often cost-prohibitive, so it helps to decide upfront what's important to you and the sports that are played at your facility.

For track and field, a scoreboard has to convey information about several events simultaneously.

"The reason a scoreboard is so important, possibly more so in track in field than many other sports, is that we have 38 events, and men's and women's events taking place at the same time; it's truly a three-ring circus," Paige says. "There's a PA announcer trying to keep spectators up to date on all this, and the scoreboard is integral."

If it's not feasible to spend the money on a scoreboard upfront, Paige encourages facility managers to at least install the proper infrastructure to anticipate the future purchase of a scoreboard.

Paige also suggests that when opting for a wireless system, facilities set themselves up for a backup wired system.

"If you have a full wireless facility and you're going to have a televised event, the TV networks that bring in their high-powered wireless equipment can actually overpower your smaller system and shut it down," Paige explains. "The first thing the tech guy is going to look for if the wireless system goes down is a backup wired system."

For the ultimate scoreboard experience, you can add video panels. They add dimension and glamour but also a hefty price tag.

"Depending on the size of the screen, they could run up to $2 million," says Robby Richards, technical support engineer for a video system manufacturer and supplier. That doesn't necessarily bump smaller facilities out of the market, though. "A lot of smaller stadiums sell advertising time on the screens to recoup the costs," he says.

The two main elements of a video screen are the screen size and resolution. The screen size has to appropriately match the distance from which the audience will view it. Resolution, which is measured by pixel pitch (the distance between pixels), is affected by this distance.

"As a rule of thumb, for every millimeter of pitch, you need one meter of viewing distance," Richards explains. So 10 millimeters of pitch means that the minimum distance your audience should be from the screen is 10 meters. "Otherwise it's like sitting two inches from your TV screen," he says.

At the San Diego Padres' Petco Park, two screens serve two different purposes.

"In left field, they have a replay system that also displays information on the players," Richards says. This huge screen is a whopping 52 feet by 30 feet. "It's pretty amazing," he says. The other screen is a smaller 12 feet by 16 feet and faces out from the stadium behind center field, where the stadium's unique Park in the Park allows visitors to picnic on a 2.8-acre lawn area and watch the game on the video screen.