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What's the score? scoreboard watching has a whole new meaning. (Facility Focus).

Anyone who has recently attended a sporting event, especially on the collegiate and professional levels, has surely noticed that the game has been joined by another source of entertainment.

High-tech scoreboards and video displays systems are in vogue in stadiums and arenas across the country, providing not only the score, but up-to-the-minute statistics, video animations, text messaging, graphics, logos, even advertising.

"Today you have to have a scoreboard, video display, and ribbon fascia displays all working in unison to give the best game experience possible," says Dan Vinton, marketing publications coordinator for Trans-Lux Sports, manufacturers of high-end outdoor commercial and sports applications.

For the most part, the look and feel of a typical scoreboard has remained status quo. While color options other than traditional black are readily available -- red, blue, and green, for example -- there's only so much you can do visually. However, there is more to scoreboards than meets the eye.

Colleges and high schools can benefit from innovations that have dramatically reduced scoreboard installation, operation, and maintenance costs.

Companies such as Sportable Scoreboards, Nevco, Trans-Lux, All American Scoreboards, and Colorado Time Systems are on the cutting edge of giving fans a reason to take more than a fleeting glance at the scoreboard.

"Schools are now experiencing all kinds of new technology such as wireless remote control, outdoor LED [Light Emitting Diodes] displays, and Solar Power," says Peter Cowen, VP/Sales & Marketing of Sportable Scoreboards.

Sportable Scoreboards is the originator of wireless remote control -- introducing it in 1986 -- and solar power for scoreboards. According to Cowen, the company was also one of the first scoreboard manufacturers to develop an outdoor LED system.

Shedding new light

LED technology replaced archaic incandescent bulbs in the late 90s. The results have been like night and day. Not only are the lights brighter and colors more vivid, the products are now maintenance free while being energy and cost efficient.

For instance, according to Eversan, Inc., based on its electromagnetic technology -- bright yellow light reflective digits that eliminate the wash out effect otherwise experienced with light bulbs -- a typical light bulb scoreboard that may cost $425 to run for the afternoon will run about $1 with a comparable Eversan scoreboard.

"LED has been a huge change," says Nevco president Mary Gayle Nevinger. "It increased hours of usage. You can get 100,000 hours with LED. Plus, you use less power consumption and scoreboards burn brighter."

Nevco's new outdoor solid-state electronic scoreboards take visibility to the next level with the high-tech look of LEDs. Designed into seven bar segment digits, the result is excellent visibility from all angles--even the sides. A one-inch white outline striping increases readability even further. According to the company, its products have reduced heat and current for safety and cost efficiency.

Its model 1503 is the complete scoreboard for any size baseball field or stadium. Complemented by red-orange 24" high LED numerals that display player-at-bat, ball, strike, out and hit/error, it also has 18" high LED numerals for inning-by-inning score and total runs, hits/errors. Nevco's LED model 7530 for football/track has a timer that runs to 1/10th second for track, bright red-orange 24" high LED numerals except for "Time Outs Left" which are 18" high LED numerals. Baseball conversion plates are available.

All American Scoreboards' newest generation LED indoor illumination system, the Everlite II, has a noticeably wider viewing angle due to a significant increase in lighted surface area. Additional enhancements include super bright LEDs, which substantially increase brightness levels, and shatterproof tinted lenses which provide both enhanced color contrast for exceptional readability and built-in impact protection for greater product durability, according to the company.

"Each pixel and cluster is front serviceable," says Doug Winkelmann, product manager for All American Scoreboards. "The LED's are set back from the face of the board so they are not exposed to any damage or impact."

CTS' light reflective scoreboards, highlighted by the Series 4009 Multi-Sport model, gives new meaning to versatility. The board's flexible mounting capability allows it to be mounted in vertical stack or side-by-side configurations.

On the high-end, Colorado Display Systems, the outdoor commercial and sports application arm of CTS, has a complete line of Tri-Color or Monochrome Animation Displays. Its Mercury16 full matrix boards display 16 shades of color. Options include red or green LEDs for indoors; or the Outdoor Sun Series Mercury16, which is a board with red LEDs that is designed to be easily visible outside even in direct sunlight. CDS's Myriad full matrix boards display 256 shades of color.

According to Trans-Lux Sports' Vinton, despite a general halt in building new facilities and reconstruction, most of the new scoreboard installations consist mainly of LED displays. Overall, however, there's been a tendency to retrofit existing structures.

Trans-Lux Sports is the product of choice at Reliant Stadium, home of the expansion Houston Texans. The entire system, which includes 16 SpectraLens monochrome incandescent ribbon displays and a RainbowWall RGB LED marquee encompassing 5,275 square feet and capable of 256 color shades, is operated by the company's ProLine computer interface that allows any image running under a Windows application to be shown on one of its display systems.

Vinton says there's been kind of a trend for the new facilities to go with ribbon-type boards, which wrap around the facia of the inside of the second tier of an arena or stadium, which can be used for game stats and/or advertising.

"That gives it a more dynamic feel and allows a little bit more sponsorship opportunities," says Vinton. "There's more of visual, Wow!"

Getting the message across

Transferring information to today's scoreboards and state-of-the-art LED systems can be done a variety of ways, says Vinton of Logan, UT-based Trans-Lux Sports, which is not to be confused with Des Moines, IA-based Trans-Lux Fair Play, which makes mainly scoreboards and shot clocks.

"You can go wireless," he says. "It all depends on how much information you want to push across. In the case of these high-end systems you wouldn't want to go wireless. For the big stuff, you want to go fiber optic cable or coaxial cable; basically anyway you can hook up. For a scoreboard, where you are just transferring small amounts of data, yeah, that's an option."

"It's more convenient," says Nevco's Nevinger, whose company introduced wireless products this year. "You don't need all that hardware. And it's more flexible. You can move around with the control. Everything is totally battery operated."

Some industry insiders are still not sold on wireless technology although it is clearly here to stay. "The thing now is getting the wireless technology nailed down so it's reliable, even though for the most part ours is," says Winkelmann.

Says Sportable's Cowen: "Our wireless remote control system has been successfully proven in thousands of scoreboards for over 15 years, unlike many of the competitors who are in the infancy stage. These companies will have years of frustration with wireless technology as the learning curve is long and tedious."

All American's indoor and outdoor wireless radio control console has an indoor range of 500 feet and an outdoor range of 1,500 feet. In addition, its indoor and outdoor microprocessor control console is user friendly and has a LCD monitor to display time and recall data displayed on the scoreboard.

The advent of microprocessing has replaced the switches and relays of the older boards, relying on computer chips for complete control. Meanwhile, today's radio controls just require a power source sans a data line.

For the most part, if there's a sport to be played chances are there is a scoreboard that's right for the job. Although football, baseball, softball, and basketball are the more obvious scoreboard-needy sports, others such as track, swimming, soccer, and even in-line hockey have gained in popularity. Best of all, many scoreboards on the market, if not most, can be converted to another sport in minutes.

"A scoreboard is a scoreboard," says Rick Connell, sales manager for Colorado Display Systems. "It's not so much the look as what it can do."
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Author:Newell, Kevin
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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