Sports Venue Technology Summit: Local Teams Add Rocky Mountain Flair to Videoboard Productions

The local teams weigh in: the Denver Broncos’ Young and Bonner were joined by (from left) Pepsi Center’s Billi Capra, Colorado Rapids’ John Hess, University of Colorado’s Eric Pelloni, and SVG’s Karen Hogan (at podium).

The local teams weigh in: the Denver Broncos’ Young and Bonner were joined by (from left) Pepsi Center’s Billi Capra, Colorado Rapids’ John Hess, University of Colorado’s Eric Pelloni, and SVG’s Karen Hogan (at podium).

With five major pro-sports franchises, more than a half dozen college athletics programs nearby, and a handful of semi-pro and minor-league franchises, the Denver Metro area is among the largest sports-video–production markets the nation has to offer. SVG’s Sports Venue Technology Summit turned the spotlight on this unique area on Tuesday, as leaders from the Denver Broncos, Altitude Sports & Entertainment, Colorado Rapids, and University of Colorado took the stage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

The past three years have been marked by a renovation boom for Denver sports venues. Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the Pepsi Center, CU’s Folsom Field, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park have all received substantial videoboard, control-room, and/or IPTV-system upgrades.

Prepping for a Mile-High Game Day
After kicking off the Summit with an in-depth look at the substantial tech upgrades made at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in 2013, the Denver Broncos staff provided a behind-the-scenes look at their workflow leading up to every home game. While the days leading up to a home game are chock-full of production activity, the real work starts months before training camp even begins.

“Getting ready for a game-day Sunday starts in the late spring and summer,” said Denver Broncos Supervising Producer Nick Young. “We are trying to get as much content and features done as early as possible. We try to get with marketing very early so they can get sponsorship, and, ideally, we get the majority of that in the early summer. We spend the summer cranking out any features, videos, and graphics we can. As we get closer to the first preseason game, there is a big push with late nights and long weeks to create all the content for game day.”

During the team’s most recent round of OTAs (official team activities), which finished up just last week, the Broncos shot a total of 75 interviews. Much of this content is shot in preparation for events that won’t take place for several months, including Salute to Service, Fan Appreciation, Homecoming, and Ring of Fame induction.

“It takes a lot of preparation and planning ahead,” said Mike Bonner, senior director, event presentation and production, Denver Broncos. “If the marketing and sponsorship group wants a sponsor to be included in a read, they have to get on the ball super early. June and July is too late. This year, we started in April and did three different waves — one in April, one in May, and one in June — so that’s 75 interviews with these guys. We hit them up for content not only for the videoboard but also for the Web. There’s nothing like asking a player in April for a Christmas read or a ‘the playoffs are here.’”

CU Buffs
The University of Colorado’s BuffVision program is responsible for producing videoboard shows at Folsom Field (which received new HD videoboards in 2012 and is currently being renovated) and the Coors Event Center, as well as live-streaming competitions for 17 teams in 10 sports for Pac-12 Networks. This year, BuffVision became the first school to live-stream the Pac-12 Women’s Golf Tournament from the Boulder Country Club.

As is the case with nearly all college athletics video departments, students play a key role in BuffVision’s productions. A large chunk of the team’s production uses students in key roles, and these students often go on to serve other major sports productions in the Denver area.

“A lot of students who work for our program are fortunate enough to get jobs [in the Denver area] after graduating,” said Eric Pelloni, assistant director, BuffVision, University of Colorado. “We usually get them sophomore or junior year, so they work for us for a couple years before going out into the real world. One of the nice things about our show is that, when someone makes a mistake, you don’t hammer them the way you would a professional. So having a nice balance on your crew, where you have experienced people that can mentor and students that are fresh and learning, is great.”

2013: Pepsi Center’s Year of Tech Reckoning
The Pepsi Center, home to the Avalanche and Nuggets, underwent a night-and-day technological makeover in 2013, the first major upgrade since the arena opened in 1999. In addition, the venue jumped from six full-time staffers to 14 to serve the drastically enhanced video-production operation.

“We had all original equipment from Pepsi Center’s build in 1999, so it was a major step forward,” said Billi Capra, VP, broadcast services, Altitude Sports & Entertainment. “The [staff] roles haven’t changed dramatically, but the size of the crew has. When you have all new equipment, you are obviously going to have to have additional support for that.”

Rapids’ Control Room Receives HD Facelift; Videoboard Is Close Behind
The Colorado Rapids have always been focused on the door-to-door fan experience and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which is why the team recently rebuilt its control room. Integrated by BeckTV, the revamped control room features Ross Video gear, including a Ross switcher and Xpression graphics. Although the videoboard remains a 4×3 SD display, Colorado Rapids Event Presentation Manager John Hess is hopeful that a new HD videoboard and LED displays will arrive in the next few years to further enhance the game-day experience.

“Since fan experience is really the No. 1 thing, getting the millennial crowd out [to attend MLS games], my responsibility is focused on the door-to-door experience,” said Hess. “We really have a captured audience in the millennial and Hispanic audience, and we are seeing a lot of big growth opportunities. It’s an interesting time where a lot of club owners are looking at their production and saying, ‘We need to grow.’”

Synergy in Action: Pepsi Center and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park
The Rapids, which will host the MLS All-Star Game next month and two CONCACAF Olympic qualifiers later this year, are always looking to share resources with their peers at Denver sports powerhouse Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, owner of the Rapids, Avalanche, Nuggets, Mammoth (NLL), Pepsi Center, and Altitude RSN.

“Pepsi Center’s upgrade has benefited us exponentially,” added Hess. “Even though we are pushing out to an SD board, all of our content looks fantastic, and that’s mostly because of the investment that [owner Stan] Kroenke has made in the video-services department. Unlike some MLS teams, we are also fortunate enough to have skilled videoboard operators. We get to rely on Billi’s crew to come work for us.”