War Eagle Extra

Screen test: New video board at Jordan-Hare Stadium will take center stage at Auburn's home-opener

Michael Niziolek

mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com

Auburn players practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium in front of the new video scoreboard. (Courtesy of Auburn Athletics)
Auburn players practice at Jordan-Hare Stadium in front of the new video scoreboard. (Courtesy of Auburn Athletics)

Eight hundred tons of steel went into making it, 10,000 volts of electricity are needed to power it, and more than 45 people will be working behind the scenes to provide a seamless production.

Auburn football fans will get their first look at the new massive video scoreboard, the largest in college football, when it is unveiled today at Jordan-Hare Stadium during the home opener against Jacksonville State.

The $13.9 million Daktronics video scoreboard is 190 feet by 57 feet and features a state-of-the-art sound system, a 10,800-square-foot display and more than 8.7 million LEDs.

Ribbon boards that ran across the sides of the stadium were also redesigned to provide fans with more in-game information, including scores, in-game team and individual player statistics and social media streams.

The video board is 500 percent larger than the Tigers’ previous scoreboard and 4,000 square feet bigger than the second largest board in college football, which is at Texas A&M.

A necessary change

War Eagle Productions has been at work since January in anticipation of the debut.

The project went from concept to reality quickly, with Auburn’s Board of Trustees approving the video board in February. Construction started in May, and the board was turned on for the first time July 31.

“The mindset was if we are going to do it, lets go all out,” said Andy Young, Auburn assistant athletic director for video services.

Young is no stranger to the equipment, as most of the university’s video boards run on the same Daktronics software, including the scoreboard that was installed at Jane B. Moore Field last year, but the size of the project created unique challenges his team had to tackle.

Young’s team at War Eagle Productions is responsible for all the video boards around campus.

Before the 2014 season, the group was one of the first to recommend that the scoreboard at Jordan-Hare needed to be upgraded.

“There were some pretty serious issues with the board. It was kind of limping along to the end,” Young said. “Video board technology after 10 years, at least in that generation, struggled. After a rain storm, you were replacing a lot of equipment, equipment they didn’t make anymore, so there were a lot of nervous nights.”

Athletic director Jay Jacobs also saw a surge of complaints from fans about the previous scoreboard, and the audio — or lack thereof — in the stadium.

“We did surveys over the last two years and focus groups. A couple of things people wanted us to address is our public address system and video board along with concessions and Wi-Fi,” Jacobs said last week. “Obviously in those first two, we took care of those in a big way.”

Young credited everyone responsible for the installation, from the construction team to the Daktronics crew, for getting the project done weeks ahead of schedule.

Jacobs called it an “Auburn project through and through,” with many of the key people having ties to the university.

Engineer Brad Christopher is an Auburn grad, architect Ian Cowart played football at Auburn and construction manager Steve Handley’s children both attend Auburn.

Large scale

What video fans see on the screen during a game is separate from the feed television audiences are seeing at home. There is also a pregame show that features multiple elements including pre-produced video packages.

On a typical Saturday afternoon last year, Young had a mixture of 20 to 25 full-time staff and freelancers.

The number is going to double this season as they add more cameras, additional people on replay and an increased number of staff responsible for graphical elements.

Graphical elements needed to be built from the ground up for the new boards. “We pretty much started from scratch,” Young said.

In preparing for the new board, Young talked and toured stadiums with similar-sized boards. On visits to the Carolina Panthers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL production staffs told him to watch out for the aspect ratio with the new board.

“First time you throw something up, it was almost completely cut off, so our editors had to completely change the way they think,” Young said.

As construction on the project started, the War Eagle Production staff spent months redoing graphics and video so it would match the quality of the new board.

When asked to estimate just how many individual graphics his staff redesigned, Young picked up a thick-stapled packet on his desk.

It was the script for today’s home opener, listing when each graphic and video would run.

“On the first page alone there’s seven or eight graphics, and we started over on everything,” Young said.

Young didn’t provide any additional details about today’s debut, but like the players running drills across the street, he is just as ready for game day.

“It feels like we have been running it for a while now,” he said. “I know what can happen, so there are a lot of sleepless nights, but that’s why you practice.”

Michael Niziolek covers Auburn football for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. Email him at mniziolek@ledger-enquirer.com or follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+

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