Feature Article - October 2019
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Game Day Connections

Entertain & Communicate With Lighting, Scoreboards & Sound

By Dave Ramont


When the University of Maryland at Baltimore County (UMBC) Event Center opened in 2018, it was an instant success, with dramatic increases in attendance. The new building—home to the UMBC Retrievers men's & women's basketball and women's volleyball teams—was designed as one of the premier mid-major NCAA Division l facilities in the country. And while they renovated support areas, seating and multi-functional spaces, they also added some new amenities.

"It's a true arena with video and ribbon boards, lighting and sound," said Thomas Mandato, associate athletic director at UMBC. "The video board alone is fantastic for both fans and players. The team really appreciates all the board can provide, from marketing to general info, statistics, awards, etc. The possibilities for interconnectivity are great."

Scoreboards, video boards, lighting and sound are important considerations for sports facilities. And as technologies quickly evolve, fans desire the latest innovations to augment their overall experience at events. These features are also powerful recruitment tools for organizations looking to attract players to their programs.

"These are critical components of these facilities," said Mike Cornoni, associate vice president in CannonDesign's sports practice, who worked on the UMBC Event Center. "When it comes to design approach, we're trying to help building owners create spaces that deliver incredible athlete and user experiences. How the facility is lit, where the video boards are located, sight lines, sound systems—all of these can positively enhance experiences when designed strategically."

And it's not just professional or premier college facilities; smaller venues are now able to offer "leading-edge tech, design and experience," according to Cornoni. "They're upping their game when it comes to these technologies."

"Schools are looking to accomplish more within their facilities," said Jody Huntimer, strategic marketing manager for K-12 schools, two-year colleges and parks and recreation at a South Dakota-based company that designs and manufactures electronic scoreboards, programmable display systems, large-screen video displays and audio systems. "Increasing fan entertainment, generating revenue and providing development opportunities for more students are top initiatives for high schools, small colleges and even rec facilities. Live video and replays increase the level of their production and provide an enhanced experience for their fans."

Aesthetically speaking, scoreboards now offer up many options at all levels, including different backlighting options and LED technologies suitable for different applications. "Customers purchasing static scoreboards really like the option of white LED digits," said Huntimer. "The white numerals against their school colors on the main body of the scoreboard really stand out and look sharp."

Many scoreboard colors are offered, as well as striping and caption colors and caption styles. You could add a clock, truss or dome, or logo and sponsor panels. Radio-controlled scoreboards eliminate extra wiring, and solar-powered options are available.

Of course, scoreboards need to reflect the different nuances of particular sports: basketball has fouls, shot clocks, quarters and halves, while baseball has innings, runs, errors, balls and strikes. More detailed displays might show pitch count or pitch speed. There are scoreboards geared toward many individual sports, including tennis, track, cricket, curling, squash, wrestling, rodeo and motor sports.

Multisport scoreboards offer versatility, and Huntimer explained that as many facilities try to get the most out of the money they spend on their scoring equipment, the ability to score multiple sports is important. "This can be accomplished with either a traditional scoreboard or a video display. Video displays—or digital scoreboards—have become much easier to operate over the past few years and provide the opportunity to give each sport played in that facility a custom graphic specific to that sport."

Using basic scoreboard models as building blocks, the possibilities are numerous. When looking at an aquatics scoreboard, for example, many variables must be considered. Will the scoreboard be used for swimming, diving, synchronized swimming, water polo, workouts/practices or a combination? How much space is available for mounting the scoreboard, and what is the viewing distance? In swimming, how many lines of times do you want to see, and do you want all the lanes to show up at once or "page" the results? Do you desire additional lines of information such as team scores, event/heat or record times? What about additions such as team identifications or ad panels? "We offer a fully integrated system for aquatics facilities by combining our video displays or results scoreboards with our touchpads, horn start, (system) controller and software," said Huntimer.

More schools and rec facilities looking to simplify their scoring consoles have moved to using a scoring app, according to Huntimer.

Jay Hammack, sales manager for a Kentucky-based manufacturer of scoreboards, agrees that apps and portable electronic devices (PEDs) like smartphones, tablets or laptops has grown in popularity but said there are pros and cons. On the plus side, since most everyone has a PED there's no concern about losing a controller or finding that it's still locked up, etc. On the downside, using a PED for scoring ties up that device for the game's duration. "One of the largest drawbacks we've found to using PEDs is the lack of tactile feedback. Pushing virtual buttons on a screen can be difficult to do while trying to keep your eyes on game play."