Ryan Field to add video scoreboard

Matthew Barbas

In another effort to increase revenue for the athletic department and improve the experience of attending a Northwestern football game, university officials have decided to replace both scoreboards at Ryan Field.

“We have been thinking about this for about two years,” NU athletic director Rick Taylor said. “It’s been a matter of making it financially work.”

Though not disclosing the cost of the new scoreboards, Taylor did say that they are being funded through a corporate agreement with Affinity Sports Marketing.

“The impetus behind this came from the athletic department,” Affinity regional market director Bill Cartwright said. “They wanted to update their facilities to state-of-the-art quality. I would guess that a significant part of this decision was business.”

The highlight of the new scoreboard at the north end of the stadium is a high-definition video screen manufactured by Opto Tech. The entire scoreboard will measure 53 feet by 54 feet, while the video screen will be 18 feet by 24 feet.

“Though smaller than the displays at other colleges, it is sized for the stadium,” Cartwright said. “Everyone should be able to see it.”

The matrix screen on the old scoreboard was 9 feet by 12 feet.

“The changes will allow us to offer more attractive sponsorship packages,” NU athletic marketing manager Mary Boyd said. “The videoboard will allow us to do all these neat things. It will bring promotional ideas alive.”

At the south end, the old scoreboard is being replaced by a smaller version that will sit in a centralized position above the endzone seats. On each side will be several LED scoreboards, which will allow for rotating sponsorship and signage opportunities as well as more out-of-town updates. This scoreboard will extend approximately from sections 116 to 121.

Chicago-based White Way Sign Company was selected to install the new scoreboards. White Way has installed scoreboards at several sporting venues, including Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium in 1998. With the construction already underway, university officials expect the scoreboard project will be completed by early August. NU’s first home game of the 2001 season is on September 15 against Navy.

Installing video displays on scoreboards has been a recent trend in both college and professional sports.

“I wouldn’t say that NU was behind,” White Way engineer Kishore Mahadev said. “But there are probably only a handful of Division I schools that don’t have it.”

NU head coach Randy Walker agrees.

“I have heard from fans: ‘Why don’t we have a video screen?” he said. “This is a facility enhancement that people are coming to expect.”

After construction is completed at Ryan Field, Wisconsin and Illinois will be the only schools in the Big Ten without video displays in their football stadiums.

Still, the new boards won’t help much in defending a Big Ten title.

“I’m still kind of a (football) purist,” Walker said. “The video screen has very little to do with the game.”