Feature Article - July 2008
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Know the Score

Scoreboard Options Run the Gamut

By Dawn Klingensmith

The Upside of Sponsorship

Meanwhile, high schools trying to determine whether ad sales are an acceptable means of generating revenue are usually gauging potentialities beyond acquiring a fancy scoreboard. For these cash-strapped schools, once the scoreboard "pays for itself" through ad sales, additional revenue can be put toward woefully under-funded academic programs.

Moreover, "There are several other factors that come into play regarding LED matrix models," Ehlmann said. "When considering LED message centers, budgets are being allocated from different departments and sources, such as IT, safety and boosters. For example, students from mass communications or the art department are creating animations as part of the curriculum. Cross-promotion within departments also occurs, such as promoting a school play at a sporting event or announcing concession items to the crowd. The need to communicate with the public, faculty and students is increasing daily. In a world of instant information, LED technology allows facilities to maintain updated content, sell advertising and sponsorship, and relay public service announcements at an accelerated pace."

Collura, who is relying on ad revenues to pay back the emerging technology fund that made Bishop Hartley High School's five-figure scoreboard purchase possible, said the commercial aspect differs from what he expected. "Our experience has been that this is a deeper opportunity and different in scope than what we originally thought," he explained. "Colleges, parent-owned businesses and local organizations seem to be the most interested in the opportunity. The program is growing annually."

Setting aside the pros and cons of exposing children and teens to more advertising, it's indisputable that schools entering into marketing contracts with manufacturers or otherwise using ad sales to buoy their budget end up with higher-quality scoreboards than they could otherwise afford.

Down to the Wire

The wireless controls discussed earlier are not limited to small portable scoreboards. Wireless network communications, whereby a scoreboard and control console are linked via radio signals without a hardwire connection, also are available for state-of-the-art, electrical LED systems, though the amount of information users transmit operating these high-end systems generally would call for fiber-optic or coaxial cable connections to be on the safe side. Though here to stay, wireless technology is still under development, and for larger data transmissions, some experts are concerned about its reliability.

In wireless setups for permanent LED scoreboards, as opposed to portable ones, the display unit still plugs into an electrical outlet, but the control console generally is battery-powered and can be moved around.

Ray of the Rolling Meadows Park District had the option of going the wireless route when purchasing an LED scoreboard for the gymnasium but decided not to, in part because the feature cost an additional $500. Moreover, "A hard line is always guaranteed to work," he said. "You don't need to worry about a battery dying in the middle of a game."

On the plus side, wireless controls eliminate cable clutter, can reduce installation costs, and can be used to operate multiple scoreboards at once. Cabled and wireless scoreboards can be integrated, which accommodates auxiliary display systems such as shot clocks and additional timers within the same network setup.

Whichever type of scoreboard an organization opts to buy, at the time of purchase, it is generally advisable to spring for the best model within the budget. It is possible, though, to start with a basic scoreboard and add components and accessories as additional funding becomes available. "It's always easier to start with all the necessities instead of making alterations to a scoreboard that's already installed in the field; however, it is very doable to add features later," Reeser said.

Popular add-on features to base-model boards include sponsorship signs, LED message centers and video displays, player-stat panels, end-of-period lights, shot clocks, pitch-speed display, delay-of-game timers and wireless control options. Consumers should make certain they understand the extent to which a scoreboard can be retrofitted before shelling out any cash.