Feature Article - March 2007
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Grand-Slam Scoreboards

Entertainment & timing technology come together

By Brian Summerfield



All the Right Scoreboard Stuff

When selecting a scoreboard, it's important to make sure it meets these criteria:

THE RIGHT LOOK

Appearance is an important aspect of a scoreboard, and choices involving scoreboards need to take into account both the intended audience and the venue. "You need to take a look at the particular place where it's going to be used," Diericks said. "They come in different sizes. We have a great big field house, and we had to buy bigger boards for that compared to what we'd use in a smaller gymnasium."

Indeed, a scoreboard's size in relation to a space is one of many factors to consider. "We're on the borderline of the board being too large for our application," Martens said. "We're in a smaller gymnasium. By the same token, it looks good from far away and close up."

THE RIGHT PRICE

Obviously, price will weigh heavily in any decision around scoreboards, particularly since the funding comes from very limited budgets that are usually financed by taxpayers, student fees or corporate sponsorship. In any case, the people responsible for procurement will be limited by a factor beyond their control.

"What we try to do is get local people to help sponsor the scoreboard by putting ads on it," Diericks said. "They initially pick up the tab for the scoreboard, but we try to get the best price that we can, so we're looking out for their dollar as well. The athletic director takes care of the procurement of the funds, then tells me to go ahead and get the boards."

However, when it comes to scoreboard purchases, it shouldn't be about trading off functionality for low cost. "Price is always a determining factor, although it's not the ultimate determining factor," Martens explained. "Price probably has a little more weight than the others. All of them overlap each other, though. It's a perceived value. There's nothing in concrete terms where you can say, 'If the video does this, it's worth this amount of dollars to me.' You just have to project in the future. Think about what you currently have and what this might be able to do for you as far as advertising, public relations and bringing people to events are concerned."

THE RIGHT PURPOSE

To be effective for various events, the scoreboard needs to serve many often dramatically different functions. For example, each sport has different scoring systems, and a good board—or set of boards—has to accommodate them all. Outside of athletics, events like pep rallies, graduations and awards ceremonies will demand other operations, which will most likely require an entirely distinct approach to video, audio and text.

"You also have to take a look at whether it's going to be used for multiple purposes, like, say, wrestling and basketball," Diericks said. "Some of them have dual capabilities."

THE RIGHT SERVICE

Both Diericks and Martens cited service as a key consideration in procurement decisions for scoreboards, timing systems and related technologies. The fact is that this is very complex equipment that will occasionally break or fail to perform, and you need to have people ready and able to service it when it does.

Plus, the better the service is on the front end, the less you'll need on the back end. "Our board was installed late October, and maintenance issues are pretty much nonexistent so far," Martens said. "We did have one issue with a module that came from that factory that was bad. On the procurement side, it's been a little slower—getting the little bugs worked out of the system and the computer set up right—but from a maintenance standpoint, it's been pretty seamless."