Minnesota’s Xcel Energy Center Goes Wild With Venue-Wide Video Upgrades
When the Minnesota Wild welcome fans back to Xcel Energy Center on Sept. 27 for an NHL preseason game against the Winnipeg Jets, fans will be treated to an upgraded video experience – capped by a stunning new center hung — made possible by Daktronics.
“We had an iconic board to begin with — and there’s so many beautiful boards that are out there right now being replaced in many of the arenas — we really wanted to make sure we took some time and some effort to think about a board that really belonged in the arena,” says Jim Ibister, VP Facility Administration, Minnesota Sports & Entertainment (MSE owns the venue and team). “The arena was built very purposefully for a certain feel and a certain brand and we wanted to make sure that the board fit inside the arena that way, so we combined some architectural elements with some of the latest trends in LED technology and we came up with a very unique and interesting design.”
A whopping six times larger than its predecessor, the new center-hung video board will stretch from blue line to blue line and comprise 10 6mm LED video displays. Two main displays, each measuring approximately 19 ft. high by 37.5 ft. wide, will be bookended by two end-facing displays measuring 19 ft. high by 24 ft. wide. The top ring of the structure will measure 3 ft. high by 145 ft. wide and the bottom ring will measure 3 ft. high by 120 ft. wide. Rounding out the structure will be two circular displays, each measuring more than 4 feet in diameter, on each side of the main video displays (four total).
Xcel Energy Center opened in 2000, after Minnesota was awarded an NHL expansion franchise (the Minnesota North Stars left for Dallas – and subsequently dropped the ‘North’ — in 1993). In order to stay true to the building’s original design, the Wild brought back a company involved in project fourteen years ago — St. Louis, MO-based Generator Studios.
“We were really concerned about [the center-hung video board’s] fit inside the building, and we said there’s no better way to make sure that that’s going to stay true to it than to bring back the original designer,” says Ibister. “Generator Studios helped us work through a design concept with just essentially the general ideas of what we’re looking for, and then obviously the final touches will be put on by Daktronics.”
As part of the project, which is currently underway at the St. Paul, MN, arena, Daktronics will replace the indoor fascia with 15mm boards that extend beyond the length of the existing displays, and the two outdoor marquees with higher resolution models. Four smaller video boards will be added to the corners of each of the two marquees, replacing fixed signage.
The arena’s four Crow’s Nests – interactive areas positioned in the arena’s interior corners – will also benefit from the technological upgrade. Home to the arena’s organist and organ (constructed in the shape of a Zamboni), lighthouse (which blows fog when the Wild score a goal), sound equipment, and stage area for various entertainment events, each will be wrapped in horizontal and vertical LED signage.
In the arena’s concourse, a 10 ft. by 40 ft. 6mm video board will replace a projection screen and be used to show various game feeds, out-of-town NHL scores, local teams’ scores, and more.
“We wanted to add this new concession stand board [to create] a lot of life on the concourse, adding a lot of extra added information almost with a Times Square feel where it’s a little bit of a destination with the opportunity to maybe see your own kid’s hockey score up there, or to see the last period of a game that matters that’s not the current game, or even just to watch our current game while you’re standing out on the concourse,” says Ibister. “[It’s] a really kind of a different element that’s going to add a lot of life out onto that concourse.”
Because the team upgraded its facilities to HD a few years ago (everything but the video boards), not much was needed to bring the control room up to speed beyond Daktronics’ Show Control and some additional fiber.
“We switched over to HD about three or four years ago and we did it purposefully [because] we knew that someday we’d get a new HD board, but we also knew that sometimes one of the things you do with your HD board is you show video highlights and things from [past] years. We wanted that to be HD when we got to the time that board came,” says Ibister. “All of our concourse TV displays have always pushed out HD, so this is just an added element… it will all look great on this new scoreboard.”