Feature Article - November 2009
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Scoreboard Showdowns

The Latest & Greatest Is All Part of the Game

By Dawn Klingensmith

Risk Management

Outdoor scoreboards can easily weigh a thousand pounds and are mounted on posts often dozens of feet into the air. When these structures fail, fans, workers and passersby are at risk. And when they fail they can cause a significant headache for facility administrators. Often cost of replacement and insurance issues are the least of their worries.

These structural failures are happening with no respect to geographic location or scoreboard manufacturer. According to Russ Neyens, a civil engineer employed by a scoreboard manufacturer with a professional engineering license in South Dakota, "There are many outdoor display systems being installed that do not meet national or local building codes and in some cases these displays result in failure."

Does this mean that becoming a structural design expert is the next duty being added to the already overstuffed plate of a facility manager? On the contrary, scoreboard installation safety is a straightforward concern that is best cured by knowledge. There are several steps athletic directors and facility representatives can take to greatly reduce the risk of structural failure:

1. Select a qualified and experienced engineering firm.

Situation: Each year thousands of schools install new scoreboards, and in many of those cases facility representatives find themselves working with engineering contacts that lack expertise in outdoor structure design. Many of these engineering firms are familiar with building design, but designing outdoor display systems for wind loads is a different application that requires different expertise.

Solution: Athletic directors and facility representatives should involve qualified engineering representatives to review the structural design. Engineering firms that are qualified to review the designs will stamp engineering drawings with the Professional Engineering certification for the state in which they are licensed to work. Don't install any display unless the drawings are stamped with the certification of a Professional Engineer.

2. Choose an experienced installation contractor.

Situation: Many companies that become involved with scoreboard installations do not have engineers on staff to ensure the use of properly sized beams and footings. Many of these companies are not experienced in the installation of outdoor displays.

Solution: Select properly insured companies that have a proven track record of success installing outdoor display systems. Outdoor display structures are a critical aspect of good facility management; don't let an unqualified installation company put your facility, or its reputation, at risk.

3. Research critical site conditions.

Situation: Landscape and building changes can significantly affect a scoreboard's wind exposure. Footings can easily fail when they are designed to incorrect soil conditions. Anchor bolts can corrode or fail when improperly installed.

Solution: Ask your qualified engineering firm to perform soil samples. This information is key in determining the best footing design.

4. Select product from companies that care about safety.

Situation: Scoreboard cabinets need to be designed to handle the wind load stated by the local and national building codes. The typical way that scoreboards are tested is by loading weight across the face of the cabinet to determine points of failure.

Solution: Select display companies that have engineered their products to meet the standards set by national and local building codes.

Responsibility is best defined as being response able. Now that you are informed on the best practices for responsible display installation from the facility management perspective, take appropriate action. Contact an experienced engineering firm for your next project and accept nothing less than an engineering drawing stamped by a licensed professional engineer.

Source: Angela Hatton, Daktronics (www.daktronics.com/installationsafety)