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Technology Hits and Misses at NRG Stadium in Houston for Final Four

Ribbon boards create distraction for viewers, but on-court projection has fans buzzing.

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After TBS fielded several complaints about the effect Daktronics ribbon boards around NRG Stadium in Houston were having on the viewing experience, stadium officials turned off the boards late in the first half of the Oklahoma-Villanova Final Four semifinal matchup Saturday night.

Daktronics installed one round of ribbon boards in 2008 and 2009 then added more in 2014, says Dan Fjeldheim, regional sales manager of live events for Daktronics. The ribbon boards typically show statistics and sponsor-driven messages, he says, although sponsor ads are not allowed during NCAA events. The NCAA has to approve all content that’s shown on the ribbon boards, says Fjeldheim.

“We create a different template based on what we can show,” he says.

Photos: Technology Hits and Misses at NRG Stadium

Daktronics also provides the scoring and timing systems for the Houston Texans, the NFL team that serves as one of two main tenants of NRG Stadium, along with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. The stadium’s control system can easily handle multiple sports, says Fjeldheim.

Fjeldheim is a South Dakota State University graduate, so he didn’t have much of a rooting interest in this year’s Final Four, but he’s excited to be involved.

“Any time we get the chance to be part of a big event, it’s a great opportunity for us,” he says.

Despite the glare issues on the court, the Final Four didn’t completely strike out in its use of technology. Before the second game of the night between Syracuse and North Carolina, fans were treated to a cool on-court graphic that included a March Madness graphic, scenes from each team’s road to the Final Four and looks at their legendary coaches and this year’s starting lineups.

Here’s a closer look at the on-court projection before the game eventually won by the Tar Heels, who’ll face Villanova in the 2016 championship game:

NRG Stadium boasts two of the largest HD displays in professional sports, a pair of Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision digital HD boards that each measure 53 feet high by 277 feet wide. The stadium also features a temporary center-hung video board for the Final Four.

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