The latest arms race in professional sports is taking place not on the field, but above it. Spurred in equal parts by technological advancement, swelling coffers, and growing competition from at-home screens that bring better-than-being-there experiences into living rooms without all the challenge (and expense) of attending a game in-person, professional and collegiate teams are racing to install bigger, brighter, sharper displays that make old-school videoboards look pedestrian by comparison. “We see the living room as our biggest competitor. Our job is to help the venue manager with fresh content,” said Al Kurtenbach, co-founder and chairman of Daktronics, one of the premier display makers in the world.
Most of these new boards use LED’s. Individual diodes cost almost a dollar per diode twenty years ago; today’s diodes cost pennies. That, combined with swelling TV revenues, means teams can afford to buy more of them. A lot more. The new displays being installed above each end-zone at EverBank Field, home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, will stretch 362 feet long and 60 feet tall. And while the odds of all this technical wizardry having any impact on the actual product on the field remain up for debate, one thing is not: Whatever that product turns out to be, we’re all going to be able to see it better and clearer than ever before.