As big-league ballclubs contemplate adding new extremely big screen technological marvels to their ballparks, minor league teams have become laboratories for the installation and implementation of high-definition video boards to enhance fan experience. In addition to new technology powering the giant boards and new designs, new providers give clubs unprecedented options when it comes to implementing high definition video in real time.
This year marked the debut of video boards in Pawtucket, Sacramento and Indianapolis. But while Sacramento and Indianapolis have newer parks, and Pawtucket's McCoy stadium dates back to its construction in the early 1940s, with but one extensive renovation in the late 1990s. Even with the expansion and renovation, McCoy Stadium is one of the smallest ballparks in the International league as well as the oldest.
The difficulty of fitting a the largest video board in New England into McCoy Stadium's cozy fan-friendly environs was the initial challenge that the Red Sox AAA affiliate faced. The club also faced an urgent deadline due to the discontinuation of the technology employed in the previous video board at McCoy. To solve the technology problem, the PawSox contracted TS Sports to do the installation. TS Sports in turn partnered with Lighthouse Technologies, a Hong Kong manufacturer of outdoor LED video display solutions.
This was a departure from the previous board which was manufactured by the industry leader, Daktronics. In fact, of the new boards in AAA only Indianapolis used a Daktronics board. Sacramento's board for Raley Field was manufactured by D3 LED, whose boards have found homes in Times Square among other city environments. Clearly competition has come to the marketplace.
Daktronics remains the dominant player, and probably the most innovative. The Indianapolis Indians installed a Daktronics LED board directly into the left field wall of Victory Field. At 120 feet wide, it was by far wider than the boards at McCoy or Raley which both used the standard HD aspect ratio. With the Astros already announcing plans to redo their video boards and other ballclubs likely to follow suit, how the business is divvied up will be worth watching this offseason.
For the PawSox, they can't be happier with the product TS Sports and Lighthouse delivered. "High def is the big thing now," said Kevin Galligan, who handles media creation for the team. "You can come to the ballgame and see crystal clear images of the game."
And not just the game they are watching.
"We can capture a live feed from NESN and play a David Ortiz home run at will," Galligan added.
The ability to blend highlights from the ongoing game as well as other games, interactive contests and trivia, and video of the fans themselves combines to help maintain the long-standing PawSox tradition of providing a big-league atmosphere at minor league prices.
Joe Tetreault is Managing Editor of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He can be contacted here through The Biz of Baseball
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