Feature Article - October 2011
Find a printable version here

Center Stage

The Latest in Scoreboards & Sports Lighting

By Deborah L. Vence

Wireless and LED technology continue to take the scoreboard industry by storm as demand is up for these resourceful innovations—by recreation facilities, sports stadiums and schools alike.

"We were extremely busy this summer. It was hard to keep up with the demand. I just sense that for whatever reason, the opportunities are out there. There's some school construction going on … keeping the current facilities up to date," said Jeff Reeser, national sales manager for a Des Moines, Iowa-based company that designs and manufactures scoreboards for schools, colleges and municipalities. "We've seen [business] level off. But, I think we're seeing an uptick now, as of recent, as we head into the winter. There's a bigger uptick than this time last year."

And, when it comes to trends in scoreboards, J.M. Allain, president and CEO of a Norwalk, Conn.-based scoreboard company that designs, sells, rents, installs and services real-time, programmable electronic information display systems, said that "Ironically, the single biggest trend we're seeing in scoreboard technology advancement is related directly to LED technology. Obviously, our significant core value has been and continues to be that very LED discipline. Therefore, to our great benefit is the marriage between traditional scoreboards and LED technology."

What's more, "This year will be better for us than last year, and that indicates a trend. You know, I think that we are seeing some available dollars that are better this year that weren't available before," Allain said.

"I'm not prepared to declare the war is over yet," he added, "but I do think that what we have done, as an industry, we have worked at right-sizing our pricing and worked on things, wireless technology, ability to have a well working technology to cut the actual bill and price tag for a scoreboard by a significant amount."

In this issue of Recreation Management magazine, we bring you news on the latest trends and advancements in scoreboard technology, including wireless, LED and video; as well as a glance at the latest innovations in sports lighting.

Wireless Technology

Of course, wireless technology continues to be a go-to innovation in scoreboards, enabling game scores to be changed remotely, without having to make adjustments by hand.

One of the latest developments in the area of wireless technology is a new version for scoreboards that guarantees flawless operation.

"We are, with the newest version, guaranteeing 100 percent operation. We have a data signal that works against anything. There are so many wireless devices in the world, but we think our pattern is foolproof. And the nice thing, too, is that it fits people with older scoreboards, even 20-year-old scoreboards. We can retrofit it," Reeser said, adding that talks with developers of the system have been promising. "There were a lot of football scoreboards turned on Friday night. And, [the developer] said, 'I didn't get any phone calls.' We didn't get any phone calls, either. It's just our signal of how we're sending it, and we fine-tuned the rate of how we're sending it. We've improved our way of transmitting the data."

Allain added, "Also, [with regard to] wireless technology, we, and many other vendors, have struggled with finding the right bandwidth and the right area in order to be able to provide the most efficient wireless technology with competing RF interferences during game time—from cell phones all the way up to scoreboards. What we introduced last year is [a guarantee] that our scoreboards will work flawlessly using wireless technology, and we introduced a 100 percent guarantee. There were tremendous difficulties and growing pains with wireless. It was very difficult."

Much time and research was spent figuring out what type of technology schools needed, too.

"As we continue to see a much more typical football environment," Allain said, "we now know with fairly good certainty what technology is being used in Division III schools or Division II high schools. We spent tremendous amounts of time [finding out] what technologies are being used, and what we found is that the technologies are putting off some sort of radio frequency."

Reeser added: "Our wireless world at [our company] is coming up with more devices that are handheld units, wireless, everything from sideline clock controls, to field time controls, to tennis controls. It pretty much covers most sports."