LED Displays: The Best and the Brightest Make the Team

Designers and architects think “green” in nearly all aspects of building design, construction. and operation. One of the areas college athletic venues are helping to sustain the planet’s resources through energy savings is through the use of light-emitting diode, or LED, technology. Most are familiar with LEDs as the small lights that are used as on/off indicators on computers and other electronics. They are small, solid-state devices (no filaments or moving parts) that are very efficient at creating light. The applications of LED lighting are expanding rapidly, from flashlights to traffic signals to building lighting and, for the past decade, in scoreboards and video displays.

The advent of large-screen LED displays in the sports world began in the mid to late 1990s. The University of Oklahoma, Washington State University, and Clemson University were among the first institutions to install LED video screens in their football stadiums in 1997. LED video technology was in its infancy, but even then these early adopters understood the benefits of LED video with its reduced power use, greater reliability, improved brightness, truer color reproduction, and overall benefits to enhancing the game-day presentations for their fans.

Today, LED technology is the state-of-the-art for indoor and outdoor large-screen video and messaging systems. Improvements in brightness and color consistency of the LEDs — along with cost reductions that have come with increased manufacturing volume — and improvements in the control systems for these large digital signs have made LED displays even more popular and prevalent in collegiate athletic venues.

One trend display system manufacturers are seeing is the move toward higher resolution, and in some cases, true high-definition LED displays (720 lines or more lines of resolution). At Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, home of the Texas Longhorns and the largest football venue in the state of Texas, fans enjoy a true high definition experience on one of the world’s largest LED video boards.

Other large schools are following with bigger and better systems that provide them the opportunity to give their fans the best live video, instant replays, real-time statistics, and up-to-the-minute scores of other games. They are used to cheer up fans, help build home field/home court advantage, and provide public service information. These systems also provide corporate partners with greater flexibility to change messages and make their involvement more of an interactive experience with the fans. Auburn University, Oklahoma University, and the new University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium are among the NCAA football venues that have gone or are going high-def.

But LED technology is not limited to the big schools or for use just as primary scoreboards. Because of its utility, LED technology has worked its way into other areas of athletic venues. Ribbon boards (also called fascia displays) have become another important component of the digital signage, often wrapping around the entire seating bowl like one large digital banner, capable of displaying video, still images, graphics, animation, and all kinds of other information in an interesting height-to-width ratio. Other locations of LED signage include at field level, along the courtside, at entrances to and from the seating bowl, at concessions, wrapped around the exterior of the building, and as stand-alone marquee-type signs at high-traffic locations.

Smaller schools and smaller venues have also been able to take advantage of the benefits of LED video and messaging technologies. Daktronics has provided systems for institutions that compete at all levels, and at dedicated intercollegiate aquatics, baseball, hockey, soccer, softball, track and field, and volleyball venues. The addition of an LED video display to an existing facility is a relatively inexpensive way to give the venue a high visibility, high-tech upgrade.

Expect to see more of these small lights making a big impact at college venues across the country.

Mark Steinkamp is a marketing manager for Daktronics Large Sports Venues Division (www.daktronics.com). He can be contacted at msteink@daktronics.com.

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