Feature Article - March 2006
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Ready for their Close-up

Scoreboards that steal the spotlight

By Dawn Klingensmith

Focus on flexibility

But for every field of dreams devoted solely to baseball, there are countless multiuse facilities that require multisport scoreboards. Where budgets are restricted, the various teams can make do with a basic model that shows the time, score and period.

However, LED technology has advanced to the point that teams who share a high-school gymnasium, for example, need not settle for a fixed-digit basketball-volleyball-wrestling scoreboard, with its alphanumeric limitations.

"A lot of companies are doing a good job with product development, so we're seeing scoreboards that are flexible [as opposed to generic]," Webb says.

Full-matrix scoreboards, for example, have no fixed digits and therefore provide unlimited flexibility and universality. Although matrix scoreboard operators have the freedom to start with what basically amounts to a blank slate, most models come with user-friendly shortcuts. Simply by pushing a few buttons, scorekeepers can bring up sports-specific scoreboard configurations or activate sports-specific animations, text messaging and graphics.

Madison High School in Rexburg, Idaho, installed two red LED matrix scoreboards that function in this manner. Located at each end of the gymnasium, the 8-foot-by-4-foot scoreboards have software packages that enable users to click on an icon to display customizable basketball, volleyball or wrestling scoreboards. The scoreboards store players' photos, names and other team data and also keep track of game stats over the course of a season.

Just as Madison's scoreboards can be designed to impart a wealth of visuals and information, they also can be stripped down to the bare essentials of timing and scoring so that physical-education teachers can use one or both units to time or score any number of activities, from circuit training to dodge ball.

Webb's advice for selecting the right board starts with brainstorming to try to anticipate every possible way the facility might be used.

"You have to sit down and think about these things with maximum flexibility in mind so you'll end up with the right number of functions in the scoreboard," he says.

Webb points out that traditional baseball scoreboards don't have a running-time feature, since innings go on indefinitely. So if a program director later decides that field hockey should be played on the same patch of grass, the scoreboard will be less than serviceable, if not totally useless.

As another example, a high-school principal Webb worked with said the football stadium was the only place to assemble all 2,000 students at once should the need ever arise, so the school considered equipping the scoreboard with a scrolling text display to convey any vital information the situation called for.

Designed for maximum flexibility, Madison's LED matrix scoreboards can be used to create visual aids for school assemblies or pep rallies.