Less Than Four Years After ‘Jerry Vision’ Debuts, Massive Scoreboards Go From Novelty to Norm

No matter how large the living room, fans most likely won’t be purchasing televisions the length of an average city block any time soon. That’s what the Dallas Cowboys, Indiana Pacers, Seattle Mariners, and many others are counting on.

In 2009, Dallas Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones unveiled his gargantuan video board, the crown jewel of a stadium project costing more than $1 billion. Some thought the board might distract from the game, or even interfere with it (during a 2009 preseason game, Tennessee Titans’ punter A.J. Trapasso hit the center-hung structure). However, Jones could not be swayed from his vision.

“I dare say,” he said, at the official unveiling of the board in May 2009, “you’re not going to know or remember whether you saw it happening directly on the field or whether, in your mind’s eye, the perception of it, you saw it on this digital board.”

It’s not difficult to be distracted by a video board stretching 60 yards over the field and to occasionally forget about the live action playing out below. However, in less than four years, mammoth scoreboards like those seen in Cowboys Stadium and Bankers Life Fieldhouse have ceased to be a novelty. Jones’s video board, stretching from 20-yard line to 20-yard line, has been eclipsed by a 200- x 80-ft. version at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Next season, the Seattle Mariners will unveil the widest board in U.S. professional sports: one measuring 201.5 x 56.5 ft. According to The Seattle Times, the board will have a viewing area roughly the size of 2,182 42-in. TV sets.

Prior to the 2012 NBA season, both the Indiana Pacers and Houston Rockets unveiled center-hung video boards, introducing the concept to the indoor venue. Both boards extend nearly foul line to foul line, with the Rockets’ stretching 8 ft. farther to be the largest indoor center-hung scoreboard in the U.S.

It all comes down to providing fans with an experience they cannot get at home. As the television experience improves, venues must find new and innovative ways to draw spectators to the stands. A 60-yd., 1080p image is certainly one way to do that. But what’s the next step? Could 4K play a role in the video-board space?

The future isn’t clear. On the one hand, installing these massive video boards often requires a significant control-room overhaul to be able to push 1080p content to the board. Venues would have to commit to a second overhaul to upgrade to 4K. On the other hand, the average consumer would probably have a hard time distinguishing between 1080p and 4K on anything smaller than a 60-in. TV. They’d certainly notice the difference on a screen stretching 2,400 in.

In the meantime, teams like the Cowboys, Titans (boasting the largest end-zone displays in the NFL), Pacers, Rockets, and Mariners hope that fans will opt to leave their own HDTVs and come through the turnstiles to watch the game on a bigger screen.

And, maybe, look down at the field every now and then.

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