Feature Article - March 2006
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Ready for their Close-up

Scoreboards that steal the spotlight

By Dawn Klingensmith

Virtual scoreboards for swim facilities

Last year, when the Evanston boys' team became state champions and the booster club once again came through with a benefaction, a fed-up Auger decided to replace his fancy LED matrix scoreboard with a software-driven projection scoreboard.

Basic systems of this type use special software, a touchpad-linked timing device, a projector and a screen to cast alphanumeric information, such as swimmers' names and times, onto a wall. Auger's system is a little more complicated. His components include a timing device, three computers, two types of proprietary software, customizable display systems he developed himself using Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel software, two ceiling-mounted projectors, and two 9-foot-by-6-foot wall-mounted screens. Far cheaper than his previous scoreboard, Auger's $15,000 system enables him to project times, relay splits, overall standings, and full-color graphics and video onto the wall.

To get full-color capabilities on a normal scoreboard would have cost Auger upward of $200,000, he says.

The booster club got a lot of bang for its buck. But cost wasn't Auger's only concern when he went scoreboard shopping. Flexibility and versatility also were high on his list.

Evanston Township High School's natatorium hosts more than its share of events—water polo matches; diving competitions; and high school, club and masters swim meets.

"We needed some type of scoring system that we could fix ourselves overnight if we had to," Auger says, given such widespread reliance on the facility.

If something happens to his projectors or screens, Auger can raid the school's audiovisual department for replacements.

The virtual scoreboard also gets used as a training tool. During practice, Auger videotapes swimmers so they can evaluate their technique on the big screen afterward.

One virtual scoreboard manufacturer reports that a recreation center uses its system to show movies at overnight swim parties for teens. That would be a heck of a time to screen Jaws.