Feature Article - March 2006
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Ready for their Close-up

Scoreboards that steal the spotlight

By Dawn Klingensmith

Down to the wire

No one had ever designed a scoreboard like the Charlotte Bobcats Arena's. To pull it off, Silberman assembled a dream team of theatrical and theme-park designers, along with sound and lighting experts with rock-concert experience. When it was all said and done, the scoreboard, electronics and sound system cost about $8.85 million.

But most facilities that buy scoreboards have more pedestrian issues to address, such as whether a wireless communication connection between the scoreboard and control console beats a hardwired connection.

The shift toward wireless is perhaps the most pervasive advance in scoreboard technology besides LED. The setup of most hardwired scoreboards involves a data cable running from the electrically powered scoreboard to an electrically powered control console, often located in the press box. In wireless setups, the scoreboard still plugs into an electrical outlet, but a portable, battery-powered control console sends data to the scoreboard through radio signals.

"Picture something like a large TV remote—that's basically what these wireless controllers look like," Webb says, adding that scorekeepers have a lot more mobility as a result.

When installing a replacement scoreboard where cables already exist, it generally is cheaper to go with a hardwired configuration. Alternately, some buyers switch to wireless but retain the wire hookups as a backup. But wireless is the wave of the future, Webb contends.

The desire for freedom and flexibility in the parks and recreation segment, coupled with the need for affordability, is driving development and sales of lightweight, portable scoreboards. These versatile models can be used for any league sport or tournament that is timed and scored, including soccer, football, baseball, softball, basketball, lacrosse and hockey. Powered by rechargeable batteries, the scoreboards are controlled by handheld wireless remotes that can hook like a cell phone onto the scorekeeper's belt. Some models have an adjustable brightness level for indoor or outdoor use. Most have built-in handles as well as built-in stands and fence-hanging brackets.

When a heavier-duty scoreboard is called for, most industry veterans advise facilities to buy the best model they can afford, however, where budgets are limited, it is possible to start with a basic scoreboard and add features, components and accessories as additional funding becomes available. Upgrades could include sponsor signs, an animation screen, roster panels and player-stat panels. Depending on the model of scoreboard, certain desirable features, such as timers, possession indicators and player-foul panels, might be now-or-never options at the time of purchase. Make sure you understand the extent to which a scoreboard can be retrofitted before you commit to buying it.