New UVA Scoreboard Offers Three Times The Fun For Fan

By Carolyn Braff

The University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium is known for its unique vertical scoreboard but for the 2009 season, Cavaliers supporters will have a lot more to cheer for as the University is bringing in a new video screen that more than triples the size of the current board.

The Opto Tech-manufactured LED board, which will be installed prior to kickoff in the fall of 2009, is 32 feet wide by 57 feet tall (the existing screen is 21 by 28), with a higher pixel resolution than the current model.

“It’s a 20mm board, which is a lighter pixel pitch than what most stadiums do,” explains Randy Dobrinska, director of project management at CBS Collegiate Sports Properties. “It’s really a unique scoreboard because we’ve stacked it vertically instead of the traditional horizontal. I think it’s going to be a lot brighter, clearer, crisper picture for the fans.”

As part of a renegotiated multimedia marketing rights agreement with the University Athletics Department, CBS will pick up the $2.4 million price tag on the new board. After their previous agreement between UVA and CBS expired, the Athletics Department went through an RFP process, ultimately choosing to stay with the incumbent, but included in the renewed agreement stipulations for several video board makeovers.

“As part of that new contract, we asked to have new boards installed at our soccer/lacrosse stadium, our baseball stadium and then to have them redo the board at our football stadium,” explains Jon Oliver, executive associate athletics director at the University of Virginia.

Virginia’s original board, also made by Opto Tech, has served the school for more than a decade, so Oliver’s team collaborated with CBS on their best option for a replacement. The structure of the marketing agreement gives CBS the freedom to choose the board themselves, pending approval from the University, and as the exclusive distributor in North America for Opto Tech, CBS recommended staying with the same manufacturer, but increasing the size and quality.

“What we looked at first was to create a board that would be more of a thing you would look at on a regular basis, so we tripled the size of the board,” Oliver says. “I still don’t think it’s an astronomical board; I looked at Texas and Auburn for reference.”

Auburn’s HD video board, by comparison, measures 30 feet wide by 74 feet high, while the University of Texas at Austin sports a 134 by 55-foot HD screen, affectionately known as the Godzillatron.

“This will be its 11th season of operation, which is pretty much unprecedented in the LED world,” Dobrinska says. “What Oliver wanted was something that would give us a lot more impact than what he had now, so we made it bigger and increased the resolution of the entire board to make it more fan-friendly.”

Virginia’s new scoreboard setup also includes two wings placed atop the board, which allows for far more display flexibility than static banners would permit.

“We have two separate wings that go above the board that allow us to have statistical information, ads possibly, whatever we need to do without having just static signs,” Oliver explains.

UVA Athletics relies on a game day staff of four-to-five people to run the stadium’s control room and Oliver says the additional wing boards should not require extra man power to operate, since much of the content they will display is pre-programmed, as is the statistical information.

Although Oliver considered the possibility of following Auburn and Texas into the HD realm, he ultimately decided against a high definition board.

“At this point, it’s cost-prohibitive,” Oliver explains. “Because it’s not just the board when you go HD; it’s the cameras, control room, everything. Looking at the big picture, I’ve even asked myself a couple of times lately, am I dumb not to do it, but I just think at this point, as long as we get a quality board, I don’t think that we’re going to regret not having HD.”

“We have some physical size limitations in the existing structure,” Dobrinska adds. “In order to do that, we would have to grow the board by quite a bit. It presented some pretty expensive structural challenges. We could do HD, but right now it’s cost-prohibitive.”