Giants Create Larger Fan Experience
When AT&T Park opened in March 2000 after two years of construction, the new home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team instantly became a landmark. The 13-acre site offered the latest in ballpark amenities, architectural design and AV technology.
The Mitsubishi Electronic Diamond Vision 32:9 LED scoreboard sits well with the park' s advertising billboards that surround it. The LED scoreboard is capable of showing a player's stats and photo, as well players on base, all on one screen.
Solution: Install the latest high- definition technology, including the only LED scoreboard in Major League Baseball that has a 32:9 aspect ratio.
When AT&T Park opened in March 2000 after two years of construction, the new home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team instantly became a landmark. The 13-acre site offered the latest in ballpark amenities, architectural design and AV technology. Designed by architects HOK Sport of Kansas City, Mo., AT&T Park seats 41,503 and offers 1,500 spots for standing room only.
The recent installation of a $3 million Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision LED scoreboard was part of a two-year capital investment plan. “We did not want the ballpark to feel like it was aging, even though it is 10 years old. The park opened in 2000, so we're now in our eighth season,” says Bill Schlough, senior vice president and chief information officer for the Giants, who oversees both team and ballpark technology.
“Going into the seventh season, we wanted a significant investment to update the park. In the 2005 season, we formed a committee to come up with more than 100 ways to impact the fan experience,” says Schlough. “In the 2005-06 off-season (and first year of the two-year plan), the answer was hi-def across the park. We installed 225 Sony and Sharp plasmas, and upgraded the park's infrastructure as well as the fascia boards.”
In the second year, the goal was to bring the high-definition experience to fans' seats via the new scoreboard. Schlough says that this addition really rounded out the AT&T Park fan experience.
“Guest service is a priority — from exiting the freeway, Bay Area Rapid Transit or ferry and arriving for the game, to leaving the park and getting back in the car, train or boat. We want fans to have a pleasant experience from the moment they arrive, from meeting friendly parking attendants to having an easy walk into the ballpark. And once in the park, we can let them see the game from anywhere. There is a 360° walkway around the park, but the fan stays connected thanks to AV.”
When Schlough and his team began the effort to choose the right scoreboard, there were three decisions to be made: size, quality and vendor. Schlough liked the idea of a 32:9 ratio board to show action, such as a side-by-side, 16:9 hot of the pitcher and batters' faces. The old scoreboard measured 24 feet high by 32 feet wide, plus the infrastructure.
Removing the old steel support infrastructure meant they could fit the new 31 1/2-foot high by 103-foot wide board in the same space. This was achieved through more efficient and modern infrastructure for the new board.
One of the early critical decisions was to determine the proper pixel pitch for the scoreboard. Schlough contacted several manufacturers that provided locations, model numbers and other statistics on their boards installed in Times Square. Larry Baer, the Giants' executive vice president and chief operating officer, accompanied Schlough to view the boards in New York. “It was hard to compare various boards, because viewing heights and distances were so different,” says Schlough.
The broadcast-quality production control room is a major upgrade for the ballpark.
To further assist in the decision-making, manufacturer Daktronics offered to demonstrate several video boards with different pixel pitches near its offices in South Dakota. Schlough viewed each board from a distance roughly equal to the distance from home plate to the scoreboard location in the park, in both daytime and nighttime conditions. Ultimately, they decided that a 20mm pixel pitch was optimal for AT&T Park (See sidebar). “A 20mm pixel pitch had the most realistic clarity and resolution from that distance,” says Schlough.
Finally, Schlough and his team visited manufacturers and other sports venues to make their final vendor selection. They ultimately chose the Mitsubishi Diamond Vision based on service and quality.
The MLB calendar and a hard deadline of April 3 — opening day — gave the install team a tight timeline to put in the 28-ton board and the new production control room that would accompany it. In addition to the Mitsubishi integration team, Schlough partnered with consultant Stu Reynolds of Acoustic Dimensions, and systems integrator Diversified Systems of Santa Clara, Calif., to complete the project. The install began the day after the last game of the season, Oct. 1, 2006. The demolition crew began preparing the facility by immediately tearing down the former production room.
Between October and January 2007, construction teams added additional power, fire and life safety systems, and grew the footprint of the old production control room by 50 percent, as well as added space for a full editing suite. They began to install new equipment for the production control room Jan. 25, after the former space was gutted and redesigned.
Diversified Systems had until opening day to install a whole new production control room and camera system for the park. “Our team has completed 30 to 40 control rooms, so there was a high experience level,” says Duane Yoslov, vice president of Diversified Systems, whose scope of work was everything inside the control room walls and the robotic cameras and antennas.
Production control at AT&T Park is akin to what would be found in any broadcast-quality studio. Yoslov notes that the monitoring system for the park's video cameras is impressive for a ballpark. The park uses TV Logic flat-panel video displays with Evertz multiviewer technology. “This is a powerful combination,” he says. “Broadcast-quality control rooms are becoming the norm in large venues such as this one.”
To match the scoreboard, Diversified also installed a new high-def microwave camera system using the Sony HDW730 HDCAM. Using the GMS microwave transmission system, the wireless “fan cam” covered the entire bowl with only two antennas. Diversified also assembled a video camera package comprised of Sony HDC1550 cameras that operate over triaxial cable.
“The requirement was that the cameras would operate over the existing triax, since an infrastructure upgrade would be very costly and time-consuming,” says Yoslov.
In the meantime, Mitsubishi began its portion of the physical install Jan. 29, although the process for engineering, manufacturing and shipping the board began in November 2006. The Mitsubishi crew was responsible for removing the old matrix board and scoreboard as well as installing the new LED board.
“The screen is broken down into several modules for easy transport and installation,” says Dave Belding, regional sales manager for the Diamond Vision Systems Division of Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc. in Warrendale, Pa. The company is a U.S. subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan. “The board arrived in several four-foot square modules that are bolted to vertical steel support members. AT&T Park's board has a total of 144 modules and more than 3 million pixels,” he says.
After removing the old boards and their supports, Mitsubishi added new supports for its board using a subcontractor that designed and fabricated the steel. Weather delays and off-season events presented additional challenges. Belding says: “There was a concert there one weekend, and we had to clear out our gear on a Friday only to return on Monday, but thankfully it was well organized.”
Benefits of the new board are visible across the park. Fans can now see the complete lineups of both teams in color graphics. Production control can switch from the standard in-game lineup to full-screen video with one touch of a button using the built-in image processor in the Diamond Vision board.
The GPI trigger interfaces like an extra effects bus, so the board's four independent 1080i HDTV inputs have a transition effect between each one. Mitsubishi coordinated with Diversified, which provided outputs from the control room to the board's router. Finally, the team integrated game technology, such as ScorePAD software, to ensure that all systems were working together.
Another benefit of the new board's LED technology is its drastically lower power consumption over the old board. It is expected that the new board will help reduce the park's peak power consumption by 78 percent.
AT&T Park's audio system is still the original equipment. There are no plans to change the audio system, which includes QSC amplifiers, Shure microphones, and JBL loudspeakers.
“Our competition off the field is other entertainment options, such as movies or people staying at home. Located in the Silicon Valley, we have a sophisticated fan base. Previously, it may have been easier for fans to watch the game with a laptop next to them on the couch and stats at their fingertips,” says Schlough. “But there are lots of things at the ballpark that you can't get at home. We have ways to keep the fans connected, such as ballparkwide Wi-Fi so they can have access to stats via PDAs. The Mitsubishi scoreboard was a natural evolution in the fan experience.”
The new scoreboard and production control room will make a big splash during this year's MLB All-Star Game, which the Giants will host July 10 at AT&T Park.
Linda Seid Frembes is a magazine journalist and public relations consultant for the professional AV industry. Visit her atwww.frembes.com.