Feature Article - September 2016
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Down to the Wire

The Latest Trends in Scoreboards, Sports Lighting & Sound

By Rick Dandes

When it comes to spectating at sporting events, the quality of a venue's lighting system, scoreboards and sound systems can make a huge difference in enjoyment of the game. And with a continual stream of new innovations in the technologies that support these systems, it's possible to constantly upgrade the gameday experience at your facility for everyone—from players to fans in the stands and at home.

Up in Lights

The explosion of lighting technologies is making a big difference for spectators at sporting events. LED lighting for sports venues, whether indoor or outdoor, provides myriad benefits in addition to the most obvious: energy savings.

"If I'm talking about indoor lighting," said Mike Lorenz, president of a Syracuse, N.Y., stadium and arena lighting solutions and installation company, "the trend is a lot more focused on the fan experience and the quality of the presentation to both fans that are in the venue as well as those that are watching on TV.

"On the outdoor side of the fence," Lorenz said, "Because, typically, outdoor lighting has less run hours, the perception was the technology was too expensive." But now we're seeing quite a bit of adoptions from municipalities, high schools and outdoor applications of lighting, ranging from the recreational fields right up to the professional fields, where operators are looking at LED as a realistic affordable option.

"What we are really doing is creating light with computers vs. mechanical infrastructure," Lorenz said. "And that is such a disruptive idea to lighting, that we've seen mechanical, bold lighting for more than 100 years and now we are seeing digital lighting, and that digital lighting has so many advantages over the bulb lighting. We are just scratching the surface, even though the improvements we've introduced have been substantial."

If you are looking to install a new lighting system, here are the key factors in your decision, Lorenz explained. First, what is the primary driver for considering changing the lighting system? If that is clear then the manufacturer can be very responsive to that driver. It may be maintenance cost, it might be sustainability, it could be player performance or broadcasting, or a variety of factors. But understanding what is driving the decision or the evaluation is helpful.

"Second," he said, "what are you trying to create? And you can be creative in that. So you may want to replace what is typically a one-dimensional lighting system, with a chance to imagine and become more proactive about what is possible."

And finally, Lorenz said, spend time understanding the differences in the technologies. "Use Google search and get some ideas of the venues that have been lit and people involved in the business and if you can make sure the factors you are considering are clear that will help for a better decision."

Eyes on the Score

When the clock is winding down in a game, track event or swim meet, and crowd enthusiasm is building, all fans look to the scoreboard, where the latest trends and newest scoreboard technologies can add to the overall excitement level.

And leading the way are the latest in LED displays, message centers, and high-resolution video systems integrated with audio, said Tom Coughlin, high schools, park and recreation, and sports marketing national sales manager, for a Brookings, S.D., scoreboard manufacturer.

These are all technologies that—although not exactly new—have been trending at not only the professional sports level, but also moving downstream to Division I colleges, community colleges and even some large high school districts, added Mike Daniel, president, of a Murray, Ky.-based scoreboard manufacturer.

Radio control (wireless) is certainly something that is becoming very commonplace, but different systems are trending for different sectors. For instance, what might be appropriate for large school districts or large high schools with big stadiums might be different from what is trending with city or municipal park and recreation departments.

One of the glaring trends is the use of video, Daniel noted. "The pricing on video displays continues to decline. But they are still expensive, and so the traditional scoreboard business is alive and well. There is clearly a move into video for the schools that have the resources to acquire it. The challenge is to have the resources to acquire it, and while there isn't a school that wouldn't like to have a video display hanging on their gym wall or at their football facility, wanting it and affording it are two different things."