Feature Article - July 2008
Find a printable version here

Know the Score

Scoreboard Options Run the Gamut

By Dawn Klingensmith

Raising the Bar

The Rolling Meadows Park District in Illinois, which operates 13 baseball and softball fields, six soccer fields, one football field and a multiuse gymnasium, made do with flip-style scoreboards until 2006, when it partnered with an affiliated youth football organization to install its first electronic scoreboard. The football organization bought the scoreboard for $4,000, and the park district pitched in to cover the cost of digging the hole and pouring the cement, which brought the total purchase and installation price to $5,500. Foundation costs can be formidable, but proper installations involve some engineering, and cutting corners is inadvisable. Scoreboards are top-heavy planes that must withstand the force of high winds, and the expertise required to ensure their structural integrity doesn't come cheap.

Last year, the park district purchased an electrical wall-mounted scoreboard for the gymnasium, but accumulating enough cash to do so was no easy feat. In fact, Athletic Supervisor David Ray began budgeting for it several years in advance, often resorting to refereeing basketball games himself to save the $40 to $60 fee per game that professional refs were demanding. And all this effort and thrift went toward a relatively low-priced scoreboard—at $2,500, it was much less than the average cost of similar scoreboards typically seen in high schools.

"Cost was definitely one of our main priorities," Ray said. "We needed something that fit within our budget and the context of our gym. We didn't need some massive scoreboard, but we didn't want to undersell ourselves, either. We wanted a more professional look than the tabletop scoreboards we'd been using.".

Ray added that his economizing was worth it: "The parents and kids have really enjoyed having the bigger scoreboard."

Price, Programming, Place

Besides price, the main factors that should guide an organization's scoreboard selection are programming, as well as the size and type of sporting facility for which the scoreboard is intended.

"Probably the first consideration should be which sport is played most often at the complex," said Jeff Reeser, national sales manager for a Des Moines, Iowa-based scoreboard manufacturer. "If the complex is geared to one sport and other activities are only played sparingly, I would recommend purchasing a scoreboard in the primary sport's product line. … If the balance of sports played is more of an even split, I would recommend a multipurpose scoreboard."

A common error buyers make is erecting what they believe is an adequately sized scoreboard, but then it ends up being too small. Although bigger is not necessarily better, overall scale and spectators' relationship to the scoreboard need to be taken into account. A rule of thumb for readability is to allow one inch of numeral height for every 40 to 50 feet of viewing distance.

"Rear-illuminated captions and sponsor signage are recommended on scoreboards that are primarily used at night," Reeser added.

Another factor besides size, brightness and clarity that should be taken into consideration is durability. Outdoor scoreboards must withstand wind and wetness, so sturdy, rustproof cabinet construction with a durable finish is required. Polycarbonate windows can be installed over LED numerals for further protection against the elements and for impact resistance in the event of an errant ball. For indoor scoreboards, protective nets or cages are available, or the LEDs can be slightly recessed so a poorly aimed basketball won't burst the bulbs.