Watching a football game from your living room is a warm, cozy, comfortable experience. You have everything at your disposal – food in the kitchen, extra room on the couch, and player stats on your laptop, just a click away. It’s pretty hard to compete with that.
This puts football stadiums around the country in a difficult position. How do they get people to bundle up and venture out of their living rooms for the live game?
Boston College’s well-known and acutely-named Alumni Stadium has taken on this challenge of “competing with the living room experience,” a claim worthy of a double-take. What could compete with such comfort and convenience?
To answer a question with a question, how big is the average living room television?
In Football, Bigger Truly is Better
This past summer, Boston College enlisted stadium technology pro Daktronics to install brand new state-of-the-art video boards and LED ribbon displays around Alumni Stadium. The new displays are 19 feet high by 54 feet wide, twice as big as the previous ones, with 855,000 LEDs per display. That’s the equivalent of 97 60-inch TVs each.
The old video boards were “held together with bells and whistles,” said Bradley Bates, athletic director at Boston College. They had far exceeded their shelf life, and it was time for an upgrade. I can attest to this as a BC alumnus myself.
“Daktronics designed, manufactured, crated and trucked the boards to Boston,” said Dave D’Amico, northeast sales rep at Daktronics. This process took about three months in total. With BC’s help, the installation itself only took about two weeks.
“We held a bid process and ended up going with Daktronics because they’re reputable,” explained John Moore, the school’s associate director of interactive media. “[Daktronics] also worked on our hockey court, so the equipment integrated easily. If there were any hurdles, they immediately found a workaround.”
The school toyed with the idea of positioning the video boards in the corners of the stadium, but it ended up being easier to put them in both endzones, where the old boards were. The ribbon, however, is a brand new touch. 1,065 feet of LED ribbon display wraps around the entire field, completing the look and feel of the stadium.
The boards’ resolution was also of utter importance. “If you have big boards, but they don’t look good, there’s no point in having big boards,” laughed Moore.
So the college chose to invest in 13HD LED technology, a serious step for image quality. It means that the spacing between the LEDs is 13mm.
“The lower that number is, the less space between each, and therefore the tighter the resolution,” explained D’Amico. 13mm is the tightest resolution of any football stadium in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and one of only 15 stadiums across the country, college or pro, with the technology.
Daktronics has installed 13HD LED in six pro football stadiums in the last couple years, including the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Arizona Cardinals, and Denver Broncos. This means Boston College’s stadium technology is better than the majority of pro football stadiums.
“There were many advantages of going with LED over SMD. LED holds up better in harsh New England weather conditions, and it’s viewable from all angles, even very close up,” Moore told me as I got a chance to see for myself. They were indeed visible even from the seats right beneath the boards. “SMD might be good for this kind of installation someday, but it’s not ready yet,” he said.
Using Video to Create a Connection
Things are changing in the way sports venues are using video. It’s very important to create a connection between the fans and the players, said Bates. “When [the players] are on the field, all you see are helmets.”
The college had to come up with ways to engage fans that compete with televisions and the convenience of having laptops and smart phones so easily accessible at home. Thus, social media and digital signage enter the football stadium.