The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 16, 2012

Scoreboard upgrade on deck at Comerica Park

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

DETROIT – At first, it might be hard to believe that the big electronic scoreboard screens at Comerica Park could be outdated after just 11 seasons of use. But think back to the big fat computer monitor or television you might have been using in 2000, and compare it to the nice, light, high-definition flat screens that are available today.

That about sums up the difference in scoreboard technology in 2000, when Comerica Park opened, versus what’s available today. And that’s why the Detroit Tigers, Daktronics and the building trades are installing a new 48-foot-tall by 128-foot-wide LED screen, that will offer more than 6,000 square-feet of video space for high-definition replays, graphics, statistics and other information for fans.

“That’s a pretty good analogy,” said Mark Steinkamp, senior marketing manager for Daktronics, which is contracting with the Tigers and has its scoreboards in 26 major league parks. “This screen will be light years ahead of what has been there.”

Attached to the existing massive iron framework in left field, the new video screen will be the fourth largest among major league baseball parks, and will replace three smaller screens with decidedly lower resolution.

“Every year there are discussions with ownership to assess how to upgrade the ballpark and enhance the fan experience,” said Duane McLean, Tigers executive vice president of business operations. “The goal is to provide the best in-park atmosphere possible for the fans. The new HD video board and system integration is a significant upgrade to Comerica Park.”

The new scoreboard is the biggest project the stadium has seen since the Tigers moved in the fences and moved the bullpens in the mid-2000s.

According to the Tigers and, much of the lighting in the old scoreboards was based on bulbs, which was common around the big leagues then. Vibrant multi-color LED scoreboards became available a few years later, and other teams began updating. The Tigers added LED boards along the facing of the second deck and the right-field fence in 2007, but were one of the few teams left still using the old-style scoreboards.

The new scoreboard, built in South Dakota and programmed by Daktronics, will be entirely LED. Steinkamp said the old scoreboard utilized incandescent light bulbs – and they were older, inefficient light bulbs, at that – at a scale of one bulb every two square inches. The new screen will have 12-15 LED bulbs in that same space. The new board will be wider than the old board, and it will be raised approximately 16 feet on the current structure so that it's less obstructed from fans by the left-field upper deck.

Gone will be the 22-foot block lettering TIGERS, replaced by cursive lettering that will tower 36 feet over the scoreboard. The analog clock has also been permanently removed. The ceramic Tigers atop the board are being refurbished and will return. The new “Tigers” script sign on the top of the scoreboard will be dynamic, state-of-the-art LED, allowing for special effects and color changes that should outshine other big league parks.

The smaller board hanging below the main board, where pitch counts and radar-gun readings appear, will also be replaced. The new version will be twice as long, allowing for more information. Add in new boards along the club level where the line score usually appears, and all the boards in the park will be LED.

Steinkamp said Daktronics is contracting directly with the Tigers on the scoreboard update, and are hiring subcontractors to help with the installation. The project includes beefed up steel on the scoreboard tower. The work is being done union, primarily by Iron Workers Local 25 and IBEW Local 58 members. An upgraded control room is also part of the project. The screen was trucked to Detroit in sections.

“It’s our very latest technology,” Steinkamp said. “There will be plenty of room for photos, replays and information, with vibrant colors and high-definition. Fans are going to notice a big difference.”

A RENDERING OF THE NEW scoreboard at Comerica Park.

THE NEWLY installed flat screen, complete with a blue screen saver.

ONE GIANT SCREEN – the fourth largest in the Major Leagues – will replace three smaller screens by Opening Day.