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Big-Picture Thinking: New Arenas Boast Huge Video Boards

20 Apr, 2016

By: Tracey Schelmetic

Attendees of the 1980 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Dodger’s Stadium in Los Angeles might remember the game vividly not for who won – the National League – but for a bit of technology that was first used at a sporting event that day. At the game, the first Diamond Vision digital LED board, manufactured by Mitsubishi, was used to wow fans. It probably seemed like the future come to pass at the time, but with a resolution of only 240×192 pixels, it would also have seemed comically low-quality to today’s sports crowds.

Since 1980, the center hung video board (still sometimes generically referred to as a “Jumbotron”) has become a staple of sports arenas. The technology continues to evolve, both in size and resolution. In Minneapolis, the Timberwolves are likely to take the prize (for a short time, anyway) for the most advanced video board ever installed by a pro sports team.

The Timberwolves are upgrading their center-hung board as part of the $130 million renovation of Target Center, according to Yahoo News. The board, which is being built by Daktronics, will feature 15 displays encompassing a total of 4,300 square feet of display space. It will be the largest arena video board in the upper Midwest, according to the team. In addition to the main board, the set-up will include multiple LED screens tied to the scorer's table, above the player tunnels, and in the arena's four corners.

“Fans will be blown away by this scoreboard,” Ted Johnson, the Timberwolves' chief strategy and development officer, said in statement. “Every person who walks into the arena will immediately be impressed and feel the energy buzzing through the crowd. With state of the art technology, the scoreboard sets the new standard for in-arena viewing.”

The impressive display won’t be confined to just the interior of the building. Outside the facility, a new video board will be attached to the building's exterior walls to create one of the biggest outdoor displays in the NBA.

Still, the Timberwolves’ new, impressive display will have some competition in the NBA. Earlier this year, the Sacramento Kings, together with Panasonic Enterprise Solutions, announced that they plan to debut a new 4K Ultra HD center-hung video board featuring the largest screens and the highest resolution in the league. The new board will be unveiled at the Golden 1 Center, the world-class indoor sports and entertainment venue scheduled to open this October in downtown Sacramento. The board will consist of a four-screen display and include two sideline screens that are over five times larger than the screens currently in use.

Newer, bigger and flashier boards may be what sports teams need to get fans’ eyes off their smartphones and onto the game. Once simply a scoreboard, the center hung video board is now also a place of for game presentation, live video and replays, sponsorship and other event information. Thanks to team apps, it can also be a source of information that actually ties into and enhances attendees’ experiences on their smartphones.

Going forward, look for teams to continue to try and outdo one another with new technology: think 3-D projection and holography; the ability to project high-definition video onto fabric, mesh and even ice; and modular solutions that can flip, rotate and disassemble/reassemble. The technologies are nearly there, and no doubt there will be a team ready to spend money on them.

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