Feature Article - March 2007
Find a printable version here

Grand-Slam Scoreboards

Entertainment & timing technology come together

By Brian Summerfield

Leave it to the experts

Essentially, the most informed individuals on scoreboards and timing systems and how they work are the manufacturers and vendors who sell the products. They invariably have the most knowledge and experience with these technologies, because they work with design, implementation and maintenance day in and out. Yet they're also self-interested parties when it comes to scoreboards, and it does them no disservice to say so. Obviously, they're in the business to make money, and it should surprise no one that they are acting on the profit motive.

Therefore, you should trust the people who are trying to sell you their products on good faith, but ask for live demonstrations of the scoreboards in question. For instance, Martens got a preview of his vendor's offerings and a sense of what Vincennes University might purchase during a visit to another site that had installed the scoreboard. "We did an on-site inspection in a hockey rink in Ontario, Canada," he said. "The board was a little larger there, but the arena was a lot larger too."

Also, try to build a good working relationship with your supplier, as this will help them understand your needs better. Investment maven Warren Buffett's philosophy on precious metals and gems can be applied here: "If you don't know jewelry, then know the jeweler."

Hence, one quality to seek in scoreboard vendors is their physical proximity to your facilities. As Diericks pointed out, this is conducive to forming a good connection with the seller. "(Our vendor) is located approximately 30 to 40 minutes away from our school district," he said. "They're readily available. The salesman we had was instrumental in helping us get the right boards for the right place."

What's more, local suppliers usually can get you the equipment you need sooner than a larger company, which might have its nearest distribution center hundreds or even thousands of miles away. "If a company was X number of dollars cheaper than the other two in a formal bid process, and the other two companies were more expensive but could get the product to me on time and had someone locally who could service a product, then that would be more of a factor than just price alone," Martens said.

You'll also want to make sure that the company in question is well established and has extensive experience with the specs of your scoreboard. Martens said that the video for the scoreboard has been an occasional source of frustration. "The learning curve has been a little steeper for them on our project because it was the first time they had done it," he said.

That notion of top-notch service should be paramount in figuring out which vendors to go with. Sellers who serve the needs of their customers well will make life much easier for the folks calling the shots at venues. For instance, Martens said he was quite satisfied with the service he'd received from a recent service check on the cabling system holding the scoreboard up in the middle of the Vincennes University gym.

"They've done a fantastic job of servicing the customer and making sure all of our needs have been met," he said. "When you have companies that are doing things like that, it makes you feel more comfortable with the decisions you've made."