Feature Article - March 2006
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Ready for their Close-up

Scoreboards that steal the spotlight

By Dawn Klingensmith

Place, programming, price

Though perfect for Evanston's windowless natatorium, a projection system isn't the best option for brightly lit facilities, for the same reason movie theaters don't show films with the lights on.

So, how do you select a scoreboard that'll be a peak performer for your particular facility? The three main factors affecting your decision will be the size and type of athletic facility (place), the sports and events that take place there (programming), and of course your budget (price). Later, we'll discuss how to bulk up a puny budget through sponsorships, but for now we'll focus on the first and second points.

Webb of Kaestle Boos Associates says one of the most common errors buyers make is erecting what they think will be a massive scoreboard, but then it ends up getting dwarfed by its surroundings once it is in place.

"Big is not necessarily better," he says, "but there are a ton of fields out there where the scoreboard looks the size of a postage stamp because overall scale, and the viewers' relationship to the scoreboard, weren't really taken into consideration."

Remember that a stop sign, though actually the size of a small tabletop, comes across looking like a dinner plate from your perch in the driver's seat.

Selecting the right size is largely a matter of experience, Webb says, adding that the first scoreboard he ever installed "turned out to be a little too small for the facility."

Now an old pro, he strongly advises facilities to take the advice of designers and manufacturers when specifying scoreboard dimensions.

Along with size, consider situation. Outdoor scoreboards face off against foul weather, so sturdy, rustproof cabinet construction with a durable finish is a must. Though LEDs are tough, some manufacturers play it safe by installing protective, polycarbonate windows over the lights so they're not exposed to the elements.

Most outdoor boards are freestanding structures, so foundation costs are another consideration.

"The foundation can contribute a lot to the cost of the scoreboard," Webb warns. "Scoreboards are basically big, flat, top-heavy planes that don't let the wind blow through them, so they have to be able to withstand some force. There's some structural engineering that goes into the design of these things."

And that affects the bottom line because you pay for the expertise.

Programming is another issue you must thoroughly examine before buying a scoreboard. Lexington High School in Texas has a field used exclusively for baseball, so when the district needed a new scoreboard, it made sense to zero in on a sports-specific model that comes across as a monument of sorts to America's favorite pastime.

The new 20-foot-by-13-foot scoreboard is green and gold with "Eagle Baseball" spelled out in giant lettering across the bottom. It replaced a smaller, less colorful scoreboard that did not display the scores by inning.

The most informative baseball-only scoreboards on the market not only break scores down by inning but also show who's at bat, the number of hits and errors, and the speed of each pitch.