The athletes are supposed to be the star of the show this week during Wichita State volleyball matches. For a few nights, at least, they are going to share the spotlight with an animated inanimate object hanging over everything.
Koch Arena will debut its new scoreboard, installed in August, at an athletic event at 6 p.m. Thursday when Wichita State plays Missouri State. The Daktronics scoreboard, and a new sound system, costing $1.8 million, open a high-definition world of possibilities for highlights, advertising, updates and crowd prompts.
It even possesses 3-D capabilities. Don’t be surprised if you come to a basketball game and find 3-D glasses on your seat.
“This is like a playground,” WSU marketing associate Kayla Blanding said. “It’s always evolving and it’s always new. We do research every day on things we can do.”
The marketing department put the big board (12 feet by 15 feet) through a dry run on Wednesday, showing off its picture clarity, its ability to display Tweets from fans and the versatile score-and-stat displays. The key asset is the videoboard’s detailed, six-millimeter line spacing. The old scoreboard featured 12-millimeter line spacing. The light-emitting diodes on the screen are six millimeters apart, producing a high-definition picture. Tighter LEDs produce more picture clarity. The amount of detail in photos and highlights is noticeable as uniforms, skin, logos and faces look much sharper and realistic.
“It brings our arena up to date,” associate athletic director for marketing John Brewer said. “It’s pretty spectacular when you see it in person. The new vs. old, the gap there is pretty wide. We’ve just come so far.”
The control room for the scoreboard and video system is in the tunnel on the north side of the arena. It is stocked with new cameras and upgraded equipment, screens and computers to operate the new technology. Daktronics sent an instructor for three days of teaching in August. She will come back for two days this week and once more before basketball season.
“Anytime you roll out a new set of equipment, there are going to be glitches,” said Jason Malay, assistant director of marketing. “There’s that first time I say throw up the Tweets and it goes to a blank screen and we all have white face for about five seconds.”
There is so much new to learn. Brewer expects to start modestly and expand the board’s capabilities as his staff learns how to operate it.
LED video rings, two feet high with 15-millimeter spacing, are on the top and bottom of the main display. Over the arena entrances from the concourse are 18 video boards, each 2 feet by 8 feet, with 12-millimeter spacing. Those screens will work together for crowd prompts, introductions and ads. Five animated prompts will highlight plays such as a three-pointer or a service ace.
“We’re going to have a picture of WuShock standing back here making a three,” Malay said. “Instead of just throwing up ‘great dunk,’ we will have WuShock dunking.”
Malay’s favorite feature is the videoboard display spectacular, a tool used a few times each game.
“Every piece in here is Shockered-out,” he said. “All you will see is Shocker stuff all across the arena.”
The main display divides into several windows. Most of the time, the score and stats section will cover the lower third, with video covering the rest. At times, score and social media updates will take up a third of the screen. A side-by-side look will also likely get plenty of use. The new technology will allow WSU to provide score updates more quickly and more easily display message and picture submissions, through social media, from fans.
“Fans are going to feel more involved with the game going on,” Blanding said.
Brewer expects fans to notice an improvement in the sound system, long a trouble area. The challenges of spreading sounds through a round arena with thousands of fans watching led to frustrations. WSU hired a consultant to engineer the system.
“This should be a night-and-day difference,” said Brad Pittman, associate athletic director for facilities and events. “We needed to have more clarity and we needed to have a system with a little more pop. I’m sure everybody noticed with the last one that it was hard to understand what people were saying and at times it didn’t have the power it needed to get above the crowd.”
Pittman said the sound system performed well during convocation ceremonies in late August. Speakers can be turned off for events that don’t put people in the upper reaches of the arena, reducing the amount of sound bouncing around. The audio station is now located above the lower bowl seats in a permanent site.
“You want your operator up in the stands,” Pittman said. “You want them to hear what the fans hear.”