Feature Article - October 2018
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Pump It Up

Scoreboards, Sports Lighting & Sound Make the Game

By Rick Dandes

At all levels of organized sports competition and play, from middle to high school to college and pro, spectators, and to some extent participants, are benefiting from more sophisticated sound, lighting and video technologies that are intended to enhance the enjoyment of the time spent at an event.

The in-person experience has become more than just about watching the event, said Kyle Sydow, high school, park and recreation market manager for a Brookings, S.D., manufacturer of video displays, scoreboards and sound systems. "The value of scoreboards is increasing. They are the second most viewed piece in a stadium other than the game itself."

Digital scoreboards, videos and the ability to replay moments of an event are de rigueur, he said; lighting and sound advances add to the sensory experience at games, accentuating the excitement. But event organizers have come to realize there are side benefits to the new technologies. School administrators and athletic directors are tasked with many things besides staging the event or game itself, such as building a positive image of their school district.

"Scoreboards are looked at as ways to entertain fans, ways to promote their sponsors, and also help develop their students," Sydow said. "How can we entertain our fans better is always the starting point, and a scoreboard does that, a video board does that. It provides fans with better information. I have one customer in Oak Creek, Wis., that is installing a scoreboard and said, 'Our game starts at 7, but the show starts at 6.' I think that is what you are seeing for trends in high school sports facilities—before a game you might see highlights of past games or student-created videos."

In the past, high school sports was something that parents came to watch their kids compete in. Now it is becoming more of a community event, with community-based entertainment. It's also where parents can see their children's successes other than just athletics.

At all levels of organized sports competition and play, spectators, and to some extent participants, are benefiting from more sophisticated sound, lighting and video technologies that are intended to enhance the enjoyment of the time spent at an event.

"You have students into video production," Sydow said, "creating videos shown in front of thousands of people on a given sports night. Or you get to see your student who gets to compete in an extracurricular activity that is recognized on a video board, where thousands of people see it. Schools are utilizing scoreboards to brand themselves by showing their successes and to improve their image in their particular market."

Video displays give a great fan experience, said Jay Hammack, sales manager for a Murray, Ky.-based scoreboard manufacturer. "With a variety of templates we provide, the customer is given the ability to display starting lineups, player profiles, player stats, etc., in a professional manner on par with what you see at professional venues."

This kind of fan experience at the junior high, high school and small college level is something that just wasn't available even 10 years ago, Hammack said. "Video operators pairing live cameras with their video displays takes fan interaction to an even higher level."

All this is possible, Sydow explained, because the quality of video is getting better. Systems are getting easier to run, more user-friendly. "There is an increased desire to run scoreboards through a mobile app," he said. "We're seeing systems capable of displaying more content and data than they ever have in the past. Systems are getting more exciting, and that could be a unique flair that a school wants to be displayed that helps set them apart. It really comes down to helping set a feeling for the fans that come to an event. You want to build an environment that people want to be around."

Get the Best Bang for Your Buck

Money is a factor, but realistically more than budget, you need to understand your objective. Manufacturers need to know what you are trying to do.

Tell manufacturers if you are looking to replace an existing scoreboard or if it's a new facility or new construction.

"Especially with outdoor scoreboards," Hammack said, "the cost of installation can increase dramatically when you get into the larger scoreboards that require three or more mounting columns. If a customer is replacing an existing scoreboard, we really try to find a scoreboard that meets their needs but will also work with their existing mounting, which can greatly reduce installation costs.

"Customers frequently come to us wanting to replace their existing scoreboard with a full matrix RGB video display," Hammack added. No doubt virtual scoreboards on video displays look great but what most people don't consider is the cost per square foot of a video display vs. a traditional scoreboard.

A standard 4-by-8 scoreboard, Hammack noted, "is about $2,000, while a similar size video display is at least $10,000. Even if you only use half of that display to show scoring, you're still talking about $5,000 worth of real estate. We encourage people to pair a video display with a traditional scoreboard. Pairings such as these means you can dedicate 100 percent of the video display to fan interaction, player stats or advertising rather than tying up expensive video area showing scores."