Trends from the Stadia EXPO 2012
A general rule about going to conventions is, “don’t go only on the last day”. Exhibitors are usually wrapping up, often people are tired and just want to go home, and chances are that whatever energy that pulsated through the show has dissipated by that final day. Still, Thursday was the only day I could go to Stadia EXPO 2012, so I went. Expectations set, I wasn’t too disappointed by the sight of entire booths being taken down and put away. I was hoping to get a sense of what technology was being pitched to stadium builders and operators, and as far as that went I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.
Three years ago I wrote a post about the seats that are going into Cowboys Stadium. Made by Australian manufacturer Camatic, at the time they were unique because the seats and standards weren’t mounted directly onto concrete risers. Instead, crews drilled metal beams into the risers, then mounted the seats onto the beams. This allows the stadium operator to expand or contract seating capacity by adding one or two seats to each row for high-demand games. Now it’s not only Camatic who makes this solution. I saw at least three vendors who had a beam-mount system. It’s not for every situation, but if you’re building or running a retractable roof stadium or arena it’s very compelling.
Occasionally on this site we hear some grumbling about the scoreboards at the Coliseum. Well, there’s no news on that front, but I can tell you that what’s out there is only getting better and better. Scoreboard maker Daktronics was on hand, and what they showed was incredible. The new thing is a LED panel where the individual pixels are only 4 mm apart. Normally you’d think of these types of displays as used in a large arena or stadium, where the crowd is a good amount of viewing distance away from the display. A display with 4 mm elements results in a 1080p/Full HD display size of just over 25′ x 14′, or a 4K cinema display size of 54′ x 25.5′. What that means is that you can put this technology in a movie theater, which is astounding. Last week I went to see a 2D presentation of The Avengers in a popular San Diego multiplex, and the auditorium had a screen close to that larger size. It used a standard Sony 4K projector. Obviously, this technology is too expensive to use in movie theaters compared to projectors, but can you imagine if it was price competitive? The quality would be amazing, the technology easily serviceable, and the brightness second-to-none (you can’t use projectors outside).
Plus, imagine if the part of a scoreboard or video board stopped working, which is something that happens with the ancient DiamondVision CRT panels at the Coliseum frequently. A technician could simply take the broken panel and replace it while the display is running, as you can see in the video below.
The last booth I visited was Nike Grind, which was pitching their recycled-shoe-rubber solution for artificial turf fields. A great takeaway from it is that the color of fill can make a huge difference. If you watch a slow-mo replay of a running back cutting on Field Turf or a similar surface, you’ll often see little rubber bit kicking up from the ground as he plants his foot. Most of the time that fill is made of recycled tires, which are all black. If you’re playing on that surface outdoors in the Midwest or South on a late August day, that fill can act as an insulator that can make the ambient temperature above the field as much as 120 degrees. Since shoes have different colored soles/parts, it can make the fill multicolored instead of black. Nike Grind claims that the multicolored fill can drop the ambient temperature up to nine degrees.
Cool as the technology was, there were things I did not see:
- Anything to make 25,000 seats disappear or otherwise make baseball and football co-exist easily.
- Much in terms of new American stadium projects (we’re in a slump).
- Arena renovation case studies.
For that last part, check back here tomorrow.
As for attending Stadia EXPO 2013 next year, I’ll pencil myself in. Next time, I’ll go on the first day.