Topics: Athletics, Administrative

August 12, 2013

Fans cheer on the Cardinals as displayed by a video screen behind them
New jumbo high-definition video screens will enhance the fan experience, providing opportunities to see replays, interviews and special features during games.

Ball State University will install jumbo high-definition video screens at Scheumann Stadium and Worthen Arena this fall, giving football, basketball and volleyball fans a chance to see replays, interviews and special features during games.

Roving cameras, crowd shots, contests and other fan participation opportunities also will be regular features on the boards.

“This will mean a significantly enhanced, interactive experience for our fans,” says Bill Scholl, Ball State’s director of intercollegiate athletics.

“At the level we’re competing, this is the kind of amenity our fans expect. It’s a very significant and important step that we’re taking. Our fans will be able to have the kind of in-stadium experience that they’re accustomed to when they go to watch NFL games and other college games.”

The screens will also mean invaluable real-world experience for dozens of Ball State telecommunications students, who will help produce much of the content shown on the boards, says William Cahoe, director of the University Teleplex.

Students will operate cameras and microphones, help mix audio and fill a variety of other roles during games. “We will use students in as many positions as possible — anywhere they can fulfill the responsibilities and have an opportunity to learn,” Cahoe says.

Providing such educational opportunities, Scholl says, was a key factor in the university’s decision to push ahead.

“I can’t think of a more real-world experience than what these students will get to do,” he says. “To me, that’s a really cool element of this whole thing. The benefits go well beyond athletics.”

Although the new screens will look like permanent installations, they actually will be sophisticated portable units leased for the duration of the relevant athletic seasons from Dodd Technologies Inc. and its sister company, ReelVideo Systems. Both companies are located in Pendleton, Ind.

The university is entering into a three-year lease agreement with DTI and ReelVideo, which will call for the screens to be installed for the duration of the football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s and women’s volleyball seasons.

A significant benefit of using removable screens, Scholl says, is that Ball State can stay current with the latest video technology. “That means, we’ll put up a board for this season, and then it will leave at the end. Then, we’ll put another board up next season, and if there are technological enhancements, we can take advantage of that. We can always be cutting edge.”

The screen deployed at Scheumann will be about 33 feet wide by 18 feet tall, and it will cover the existing scoreboard. A new scoreboard will be installed to the side, replacing outdated advertising panels. At Worthen, the screen will measure about 23 feet wide by 12 feet tall. A location for that screen is still being finalized.

Both boards will be 12-millimeter resolution, high-definition LED screens, says Andy Gerber, visual display manager for DTI and ReelVideo.

When not in use or in the event of bad weather, the Scheumann video board can roll up like a home movie screen. “That’s important in an outdoor installation,” Gerber says. “The screen is moisture proof, but by rolling it up, you can eliminate the danger from high winds. The whole thing rolls up in a matter of 20 or 30 seconds.”

Plans tentatively call for the Scheumann screen to be installed the week of Aug. 19, he says. The Worthen board will be put up a few days after the installation at Scheumann.

The screens will cost $320,000 in the first year of the lease, $355,000 in the second year, and $390,000 in the third, says Randy Howard, vice president of business affairs and treasurer of the university. The leasing cost, which is significantly less than purchasing two large video boards, includes the services of an on-site technician at every event to make sure the screens are operating smoothly.

Ball State will finance the boards through a mix of sponsorship and advertising revenue, a $1 ticket increase, and revenue distributed by the Mid-American Conference to the university as a member school, Howard says. No state money will be used in the project.

Howard says the university is especially pleased to work with a successful Indiana company on the project. “It’s nice to have a strong partner like Dodd, which has helped us with events in the past. We always like it when local companies can participate with Ball State.”

Scholl sees the video boards as a significant investment in the university’s athletic program.

“Beyond what this will mean for fans and the educational opportunities it provides, this will absolutely help with our recruiting,” he says.

When prospective student-athletes visit, they make comparisons, and they notice that Scheumann and Worthen don’t have video boards, says Scholl. “Recruits see amenities as a demonstration of commitment. We can do some things with video boards during visits to showcase our programs and show what we’re all about. It absolutely makes a difference.”

Even so, he says, the project is about more than athletics. It’s about Ball State.

“As people watch the content on the boards — and see us showcase a faculty member or one of our students — they’ll realize this is not just about football or basketball. It’s a chance to tell our fans week in and week out about all kinds of great things that make Ball State a great university.”