Feature Article - July 2010
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A Cut Above

Scoreboard Innovations Becoming More Visual, Motivational

By Deborah L. Vence

Environmentally Conscious

As many companies are trying to "go green" these days, the future certainly looks promising in developing greener technologies for scoreboards as well.

"While the types of scoreboards available in the marketplace are already quite varied, we as an industry must be able to provide green products that allow for the same or better features that use alternate power sources," Allain said.

"While we are already delivering solar-powered scoreboards, they are limited in their functionality, reliability and robustness. The future in green technologies is bright, however," he said. "We are using the wind, solar and battery functionality from our TL Energy division as building blocks for scoreboards that are completely off the grid and are much friendlier to the environment."

Meanwhile, Bethany Reeder, marketing manager for a Murray, Ky.-based scoreboard manufacturer, whose list of clients include most of the NFL and many NBA teams as well as major colleges and universities, high schools, park and recreation departments and youth leagues, added that within the last month, her firm has unveiled a major scoreboard invention that it considers a "green" solution to replacing an old scoreboard.

"This new invention … is a revolutionary process whereby a tired, outdated scoreboard can be remarkably transformed into a new scoreboard while eliminating the need to replace the existing unit and structure. Transportation and installation costs are drastically reduced with the [new] process. Installation is a breeze with the lightweight, easily interchangeable components," Reeder said.

"The new system can help organizations save money during this time of budget cuts. Installation and transportation costs are oftentimes drastically reduced with this new method," she said.

Aquatic-Specific and Portable Boards

Finally, two types of scoreboards that continue to thrive in popularity are aquatic-specific and portable.

Coughlin said that he's seeing more recreation facilities upgrading their aquatic scoreboards to include the full matrix.

"We're finding a lot of the installation of these LED matrix boards," he said.

Meanwhile, Paul Vugteveen, who specializes in timing sales for a Sioux Falls, S.D.-based scoreboard company, agreed that there is growing popularity for matrix-style scoreboards in aquatics.

"I would say the biggest shift we have experienced [in aquatic-specific scoreboards] over the last few years has been the increasing popularity of full matrix-style scoreboards," Vugteveen said. "These are scoreboards that, in addition to the traditional lane, place and time information, also provide the viewer with information such as athlete name, team affiliation, event titles and so on. They are also able to display graphics and moving animation when not displaying event results."

In addition, another benefit of full matrix scoreboard technology is that on non-meet days the display can be used for other things such as general announcements and sponsor recognition.

"While more traditional numeric scoreboards are really only providing information on meet day, full matrix scoreboards provide value all year round," Vugteveen said.

And, historically, the price gap between full matrix scoreboards and the more traditional numeric style had been quite significant. Recent advancements in LED technology have allowed that price gap to narrow significantly, allowing more customers to experience the benefits of full matrix technology, he added.

"As with most things, price will vary depending on size and what the customer would like the display to do for them. For example, for a relatively small 25-yard pool, if results and graphics in one color are sufficient, [then] a matrix scoreboard can start in the mid to high $20,000 [range]," he explained. "If the customer requires high-resolution full-color video along with results the price can move well into the six figures. There are products that fit in many slots between the entry level and the more advanced products."

He said that compares with a traditional numeric scoreboard averaging somewhere between $10,000 and $20,000.

"Full matrix displays are controlled by PC-based software. The user simply programs in what he or she wants the board to do and the display takes over," he added.

Lastly, portable scoreboards have remained popular in the scoreboard industry because of their versatility.

"[Portable scoreboards] can be moved around from field to field. They are on wheels and moved to whatever location. They can be controlled from other locations vs. something that is stuck in the ground and on poles," Coughlin said. "It has a great deal of versatility. It's a good feature."

He added, "Most of the portable scoreboards are the multi-sport [kind], for the features and functions can accommodate most any outdoor sport, commonly used for baseball, soccer and more."