Everything's bigger in Texas. It's a cliché, I know, but from what I can tell, Texans take it quite seriously. It's the largest state in the lower 48 (second only to the massive Alaska), and it's a state which truly practices the concept of 'bigger is better,' whether it's a good idea or not (because sometimes it is).
Jerry Jones oversaw construction of the $1.33 billion Cowboys Stadium, the third-most expensive sports venue in the United States (and the world). And in a state that favors size over just about anything else, Jones simply had to install the biggest scoreboard in the world: a staggering 160-feet wide by 72-feet tall, or 11,520 square feet of display area.
In 2009, Guinness World Records certified the Mitsubishi screens as the World's Largest High-Definition Video Display.
That record has since been surpassed; Charlotte Motor Speedway (a ridiculously large 200' x 80' in 720p high-def) wrestled that distinction away from them. But at least the Cowboys still had the largest video board in the NFL.
Well, word is now that the Houston Texans are eyeing the top of the heap in NFL jumbotrons. The Harris County Sports and Convention Corp. voted Dec. 19 to enlarge Reliant Stadium's video display boards, making them the largest in Texas and the widest in the world (which means they'll be greater than 200' wide).
So is this a Texas thing, a new craze, or the latest trend in the ever-changing stadium wars?
I'm here to tell you, it's not just a Texas thing. . .
It's like the arms race of the 2000s. Stadia all across the United States are racing to have the biggest and best video boards. And not just in the NFL either, but in the NCAA, as well.
Even the University of Memphis, a school that hasn't won in football since DeAngelo Williams roamed the backfield for them, joined the race in 2012, putting the finishing touches on a massive 98' x 48' HD board that zoomed the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium into the top 12 boards in the NCAA, just large enough to bump cross-state rival UT-Knoxville down a notch by a mere 116 square feet.
Beside the surprising inclusion of Memphis in the top 12, your football royalty, blue bloods, are on the list. Schools like Texas (#1), Miami (FL, #2), USC (#4), Ohio State (#8), Oklahoma (#10), Florida (#13). Surely, Notre Dame is looking to crash the top 10? Stay tuned.
If you look at the list of largest video boards at professional sporting venues in the country, none were built before 2006. Charlotte Motor Speedway put up their monster board in 2011. Kaufmann Stadium, home of Major League baseball's Kansas City Royals, erected what was then the world's largest HD display board (105' x 84', or 8,820 square feet) in 2008. Half of the 10 largest vid boards in NCAA Division I FBS have been completed since 2011.
For heaven's sake, FCS participant Tennessee State has a board (157' x 54', or 8,478 square feet) which dwarfs all the FBS entries by 1,000 square feet or more, and is more than five times as large as the runner-up in FCS. And guess when it was christened?
If you said 2012, you're absolutely correct.
Where does it all end?
Someday soon, we're going to reach a point where these huge video boards can get no larger. Already, the massive unit in Arlington, TX represents 20% of the square footage of the playing surface of Cowboys Stadium. It's the equivalent of 3,200 52-inch television sets.
And they're going to erect an even bigger one in Reliant Stadium in Houston?
My guess is that some stadium in the next few years will cram an even bigger board into it. Someone right now is probably plotting how to install a 200' x 100' high-def board into a sporting venue. It might be an existing, open-air facility. Or it might be a multi-purpose building that hasn't even been designed yet. But it'll probably happen.
Meanwhile, down in Texas, I wonder if Jerry Jones is plotting to expand his existing Mitsubishi digital scoreboard, just to stick it to Harris County and Reliant Stadium? After spending $1.33 billion on a state-of-the-art facility, what's a few measly million more to regain the perch as largest video display in the NFL?
Let the madness continue.