Scoreboards come in all shapes and sizes, from the enormous banner at Kauffman Field to the pylons found at motor raceways. Nevertheless, in the world of professional sports, bigger is often better. We've seen the NBA's Houston Rockets install a massive videoboard over their court, then the NFL's Dallas Cowboys one-upped them with a humongous screen that almost dwarfs the action on the field. The ginormous scoreboard trend had not really caught in hockey to a large degree, but that is changing now.
The Tampa Bay Times Forum, home of the NHL's Lightning, has been looking for ways to attract more fans to hockey games - no small task considering the palm trees and beaches nearby - and after adding an organ and Tesla coils to create lightning bolts, they have installed what is by far the largest board in the NHL. Rectangular in shape, the new scoreboard will be the largest single-hung example in North America and will provide high-definition video to fans in the arena.
Lightning coach Guy Boucher jokes that he is afraid of seeing his face displayed vividly on the huge screen. "If I can avoid it, perfect," he laughed.
Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is responsible for the $5 million cost for the new videoboard, which is a key part of the $42 million renovation of the Forum. And although the megaboard doesn't come cheap, those who have been to a game in Tampa can tell you about the black squares that would show up on the old screens. Now, fans will get to see clear pictures, but they will be stretched to enormous proportions in the highest-possible definition.
The new Daktronics scoreboard has an astonishing 3,920 square feet of screen space compared with 1,792 square feet on the old board. There is no word as to what the fate of the old scoreboard will be, but the Lightning can look to Toronto for a creative solution. After the Air Canada Centre installed a new $7.8 million HD board and sent their old scoreboard down the road to Ricoh Coliseum, home of the AHL Marlies. Tampa Bay's AHL affiliate in Syracuse already installed a new scoreboard at War Memorial Arena, but there are many other rinks that could benefit from an NHL quality scoreboard, and the Lightning now have the chance to pursue that option if they wish.
Tampa Bay is not the only hockey team upgrading their presentation this season. The Columbus Blue Jackets also contracted Daktronics to provide a new series of video display boards and a centerpiece scoreboard that provides 2 1/2 times more display space than its predecessor at Nationwide Arena. The new board is designed in the traditional hockey and basketball fashion, with four square-shaped screen surrounded by LED ribbons. The new scoreboard replaces a twelve-year old example, and that is huge according to Derek Dowley, Game Operations Director with the Blue Jackets. "Think about the TV or the phone you had 12 years ago, when this was built, and what you have now. The technology's just come so far."
Also installed in the arena are LED ribbons which will display an animated cannonball when the real cannon is fired following a Jackets goal. There is also a new "party tower" that will display video and live tweets from fans during the game.
Together, Tampa Bay and Columbus are part of a trend changing the sports world and placing a new emphasis on the scoreboard. Although some fans may lament the loss of a simple hockey game feel, the teams hope many more will come in and reinvigorate their fortunes in return for the enormous investment - and enormous screens.
(Photo courtesy of Marc Nemcik.)