Video Boards, Scoreboards and the Arena Experience

May 21, 2013

Arena facilities, because of their multi-functional nature, have always pushed the envelope of innovation with regards to technology.  It is essential that they provide integrated solutions to accommodate sporting events, concerts, and family experiences, all while exceeding the expectations of modern spectators.

Technology as a whole, from digital displays and Wi-Fi connectivity to augmented reality and mobile apps, is essential to the long-term success and viability of any arena.  And while venues today seem to place emphasis on the latest trends and newest technologies, the biggest impact can often be made by re-energizing one of the oldest technological pieces in the arena – the scoreboard.  The main scoreboard remains as the single most viewed source for game presentation, live video and replays, sponsorship and other event information.  In arenas, it is often nicknamed the ‘center-hung board’ referencing its central, suspended location above the event floor.

Today, a symmetrical center-hung board, usually with 4 primary sides, is still the standard in arena installments.  However, we are beginning to see instances of larger rectangular displays oriented more toward the sidelines.  Such is the case at Toyota Center, home of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers.  These larger boards now offer spectators a maximized view of video content, arguably paralleling the at-home TV experience.  Pair that with the live action on the event floor below and you’ve given the modern fan the best of both worlds.

In the industry of live entertainment which constantly competes with HDTV and internet programming, we are challenged with new ways to add value to the in-person experience.  For example, Populous recently developed a concept for ice hockey that utilizes e-ink technology in the rink dasher boards.  The technology is what lies behind the screens of digital Kindles or other e-readers, where content appears as if it were scribed on paper.  Here, we looked at using the system to transform the traditional look of static advertisements surrounding the ice.  Similar concepts have appeared in soccer, where LED boards surround the pitch and scroll content throughout the match.  However in hockey, an excess of light-emitting video boards can be a distraction to the athletes, thus an opportunity to explore a new and innovative approach to traditional dasher boards.  These paper-like displays within the dasher would allow arena operators and teams to offer sponsors a maximized branding moment, increasing this traditional form of revenue while also maintaining the integrity of the on-ice play.

Along with revenue generation, video displays within arenas are used extensively for game presentation purposes.  Whether it’s to fuel the crowd or celebrate a victory, they can create electric, energetic environments in an instant.  While the center-hung board is usually the focal point for all this, individual arenas have used supplemental LED ribbons and other technologies to create tailored game presentation experiences.  One example of this is the use of high-definition video projected onto fabric mesh, creating transparent surfaces of video content where they would otherwise be impractical.  When synchronized with content on the center-hung board and other projections on the floor/ice, it can be particularly captivating, essentially creating a 3D or holographic environment.  Another advantage is that the mesh screens are temporary and rise into the rafters in a matter of seconds.  It gives a facility the flexibility to provide additional media surfaces when their game presentation requires it and then retract them when the event begins.  Rogers Arena in Vancouver took advantage of this approach, which can be seen in action here:

 This application is just one of many that might give us clues to how video displays will be used to enhance the arena experience in the future.  BC Place Stadium uses stretched fabric panels in an artful array to reduce the building volume and screen off unused seating for smaller events.  Imagine if these panels were made of a similar fabric mesh as those at Rogers Arena-   the entire surface could be brought to life with high-definition video projection.  As designers, we are always presented with opportunities to make use of innovative solutions. Combining high-definition video projection with existing house reduction panels could create the newest and most unique video halo in sports.

If we then take this forward thinking and apply it to the actual scoreboard, we can start to envision a centerpiece that takes on a new identity based on different events.  For instance, we’ve seen installments of modular LED center-hung boards that are lightweight, demountable, and reusable.  At the 2013 Final Four in Atlanta, Populous made use of this technology to create a grandiose arena-like atmosphere within the Georgia Dome.  Since most center-hung boards are permanent installments, it begs the question of whether a modular approach may be appropriate for the broader arena market.  If we truly aim to customize environments and experiences for hockey, basketball, concerts or other shows, why couldn’t the center-hung board be customized in the same manner?  What is the best location for these displays during different events?  Could it move, rotate, flip, or transform?

As technology continues to evolve, and with innovative thinking on the part of owners, operators and designers, we will soon develop the next generation of scoreboard design, and spectators will benefit from a brand new arena video experience.


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