Suggestion: Buy Used

Part of the game in the world of new stadia is the stadium improvements fund. It’s a set aside of stadium revenues from the partnership of team and city/county that is used to fix plumbing, lights, and seats. It’s also used in many cases to change other non-critical items that become obsolete over time, so that the partners can keep up with competitive venues and enhance fan experience. By enshrining the terms in a lease agreement, both sides can set proper expectations about what kind of maintenance and upgrades a venue will get over the short and long term.

To that end, the NFL stadia in Denver and Houston are getting fancy new LED displays as part of a $30 million audiovisual makeover. This makes sense both stadia are at least a decade old and display technology has advanced rapidly over the last several years. In Denver, the horseshoe shape at Sports Authority Field at Mile High means there are three boards of different sizes: one big board (27′ x 96′) on the open south end and two half-size boards in the north corners of the upper bowl. SAF@MH also lacks ribbon fascia boards, so one or two levels of LEDs are in the works there. Both the big displays and fascia boards will be capable of HD.

At least Denver’s displays are LED-based. Houston’s Reliant Stadium uses old CRT technology (like the Coliseum) and is finally moving into the 21st century with fully digital LED displays from Mitsubishi. The new displays will replace the old mix of incandescent, CRT, and static displays tucked under the stadium roof. When completed, each one will measure 52.5′ x 277′, officially longer and bigger than the center-hung boards at Cowboys Stadium (also built by Mitsubishi). Since the display is so long, only a portion of it will be used for replays, unlike Cowboys Stadium’s 16 x 9 boards. Despite that limitation, the new displays promise greater presentation flexibility for in-game information, video, and ads.

Compare that to what Raiders and A’s fans continue to live with at the Coliseum, and it starts to get depressing. Better than telling you, I’d rather show you via an infographic by reddit user dbeat.


Comparison of video displays in NFL stadia. Reliant Stadium’s new board will soon be the biggest. Denver’s is mid-sized. The Coliseum’s are among the smallest.

With the sad state of displays at the Coliseum and the cycle of change elsewhere, I got to thinking, What happens with the old displays? I’ve sent an inquiry into Denver’s Metropolitan Football Stadium District to find out (I’ll update here if I do). Some displays end up getting donated. Do they also get resold? LED lifespan is 50,000 hours, so unless you’re going for greater resolution the displays themselves should last the life of the stadium. Over 12 years at SAF@MH, it’s likely that the scoreboards were used only 500-1,000 hours per year.

Old displays at Denver stadium

Old display at Denver stadium

Denver would seem a prime candidate to get the scoreboards at a very good price. Why hated AFC West rival Denver? There are a few convenient reasons.

  • If the two north boards are put together into one board, the result is that each of the boards (north/south) measure 27′ x 96′. That would fit very nicely into the Coliseum’s existing scoreboard frames, which are about 40′ x 140′ not including the arched caps. Whether they’re each used as one contiguous display or split into two, it can work well while retaining static signage panels that currently populate the surround.
  • Since the both the Coliseum’s and SAF@MH’s old displays were manufactured by Mitsubishi’s Diamond Vision unit, it stands to reason that there will be some degree of interoperability.
  • Both the A’s and Raiders would welcome additional advertising opportunities on crisper displays.
  • SAF@MH’s monochrome scoreboards are also being replaced and even those would be an upgrade on what the Coliseum has.
  • As a secondhand product, the displays could be acquired at a significant discount, perhaps $1 million or less.
  • If the Coliseum is to be used for only 5-6 more years, it makes little sense to spend tens of millions on new displays.

Current CRT video board and scoreboard system at the Coliseum

Seems like a decent idea, right? The difficulty comes when working among the Coliseum Authority, the Raiders, and the A’s. It would make sense to put something like this into a five year capital improvements plan. How it gets paid for, and how new revenues get divided, is the tough part. Divvying up signage revenue has long been a sticking point in the relationship, with the A’s getting the lion’s share of in-stadium revenue since the 1995 renovation. With all leases expiring, there’s a chance at a clean slate in negotiations. Would Lew Wolff forego an A’s-tilted ad revenue deal in order to get five fairly hassle-free years and opt-outs on a lease extension? Sounds like a deal point to me. It’s just a suggestion.

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