MOUNT CARMEL -- More than 25 years ago the scoreboards at the the Spencer Sports Center at Wabash Valley College and Paul Schnarre Field were installed.
As with all things in life, upgrades and maintenance are needed for sustainability and even still, eventually they'll run their course as far as their viability.
Such is the case with the two scoreboards, which Wabash Valley College has acknowledged are in dire need of replacement. The softball scoreboard is very basic, showing just the score, as well as outs, strikes and balls. The scoreboard at the gymnasium has slightly more capabilities, but is on its last legs according to Wabash Valley College Athletic Director Mike Carpenter, who cited that the gymnasium scoreboard malfunctioned numerous times this season. That need for a facelift has prompted a campaign by the college which is set to be officially announced, seeking funding for the replacement of the two with new, state of the art scoreboards.
"It's a huge undertaking and we're going to need to hopefully get support from our community, business leaders It would be a much needed improvement for the softball field as well as the gymnasium," Carpenter said. "They haven't been updated since the early 1990s. We'll continue to get out and talk to people, hopefully can raise a lot of money to get that done this summer."
Carpenter envisions both scoreboards being replaced with video boards, which is the compelling new trend for stadiums, with a late summer installation in mind -- if the necessary funds are raised.
Unlike predecessing scoreboards, the durability of these video boards will be tremendous. Even in the case of the softball field, if a video board is indeed chosen for its replacement, it'll be covered by a net to prevent it from being hit by home run balls. If in the rare it is indeed struck by a ball or damaged, it's as simple as replacing an LED light.
"This is something that'll last for a long, long time," Carpenter said. "Scoreboards are going to break, an LED might go out, but if it does we just replace it. This is basically a board with thousands and thousands of LED lights. So the app will constantly be updated but never go out of style, something we can use for years and years and be proud of."
Initially, Carpenter began researching for metal box scoreboards, similar to the ones already in place, but slowly realized through this research that the investment of the video boards could open up a vast amount of opportunities for the school.
Not only could a 12-15 foot high, 20-foot wide video board substantially increase the gameday experience for fans, allowing for further fan interaction, celebrating birthdays, recognizing special fans in attendance, instant replays, lineup videos, among other compelling features, but it could serve an educational purpose as well. In his research Carpenter came across an app called ScoreVision.
The innovating app would allow students to manage and create content for the scoreboards upon installation, as well as running the management side of it during gamedays. This would allow students to receive invaluable video editing, statkeeping and video recording experience. Classes are being specifically setup for the creation of such content, as well as gameday management for the software.
"[They] use the video boards as a cocurricular activity with the classrooms," Carpenter said. "It's a curriculum based program that your students actually produce content, video content, audio content, they handle the marketing, the video design, the commercials. It's really state of the art technology all ran by an app off an iPad. Once we started looking at the educational aspect of it, it was a no brainer. Something that could help our students learn and help our enrollment."
One school, Iowa Western College, who setup a similar video board with ScoreVision, saw a 70 percent increase in enrollment in their sports management and video production classes, according to Carpenter, offering a testament to the excitement it could bring for students.
Other functionalities of the video board (at least in the gymnasium), will allow for community driven events, such as movie nights, yoga classes, fitness classes, graduation among other events. It could be a truly great development for recruiting purposes, as potential students and athletes are highly attracted to updated facilities. They'd be capable of welcoming a student or student-athlete on a recruiting visit to the school by simply plugging in their information with a welcoming message on an iPad. Simple as that.
"What parent or grandparent is not going to take a picture of the scoreboard when their son or grandson or granddaughter is on the screen," Carpenter said. "Whether it's a nursing student, a potential chemistry student that comes to our campus on a visit and we have their 12 to 13 foot image on the screen saying, welcome. What kid is not going to take a picture of that and put it on social media. Now our brand of the college is being put up all over the place, as well as the sponsors, because once that thing comes on, the sponsors start going up there.
Possibly the most exciting thing is fans will have the ability to track the scoreboard through the app. Upon downloading the app, you'd be capable of accessing the scoreboard, featuring live video of the game, the score, as well as advertising from anywhere in the world. Such worldwide accessibility and compelling technology is something that should draw the attention of local advertisers as well.
"The ScoreVision company did a survery, with the number of events we hold here with our volleyball, our basketball teams, our summer shootouts, our all-star games, all the events we have at our gym," Carpenter said. "An advertiser would get over 1.1 million unique tracks to that advertisement. Even if you average 400 fans, they're going to be seeing that over and over again throughout the course of one game. [The advertisers] ability to get seen in a unique way is very something we're excited about, as well as the app. The app you can download to your cellphone. You can go onto the scoreboard when it's been activated, you can use the app on your phone and look at it anywhere in the world. An advertiser now is being pumped out to people's cellphones as well as when we share it on social media. It's really limitless as far as our reach now."
Furthermore, advertisers will have the option of having commercials or image advertisements shown instead of the outdated banners that currently sit on the wall of the Spencer Sports Center. This would also serve an educational purpose, as the students would oversee the video editing, the creation of the content and the marketing side of it. Advertisers would have the ability to change their ad nearly instantaneously for updated specials.
"I think it's something that down the road will hopefully be something that will be able to pull us out of a financial hole that we're in with the budgets in the state of Illinois and the way they've been," Carpenter said. "Advertisers will now have the ability to put their content up on a giant video board, whether it's their logo, a special they're running or a commercial with audio and video. They can use that in front of our fans, whoever's in our gym can see those products multiple times throughout a sporting event, not just one time. The way the old advertising worked in gymnasiums was they had a sign on the wall that's seen once or twice. This kind of marketing has found to have been more successful where it's constantly changing the videoboard. The viewers eyes are going from the game to the video board, to the game and back and forth. That's not the case with a sign on the wall. Our ability now to go out and solicit more businesses and advertisers will be through the roof now."
Carpenter added that advertisers would have the ability to have their advertisement shown multiple times a game, not just one, on a video board which would be the center of attention during timeouts, halftime and any breaks in action.
For the donations, the college is seeking a five-year commitment, but is also open to one-time donations as well (from businesses or individuals). To incentivize donators, the school will be offering ticket packages, parking passes, as well as advertisements through the course of the years based on the scale of the donation. Any donation would also be 100 percent tax deductible.
"If people want to donate, they can call me at the office at 263-5520 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org," Carpenter said. "It is a huge undertaking financially but well worth the investment and the funds donated would be tax exempt. . . . People who donate to the videoboard project will get their business brand on the videoboard for those five years. Depending on the level of donation [they] could get commercials, could get 15 second, 30 second commercials in all of our games as well as season passes and parking passes to games."
In the coming weeks Wabash Valley College will officially announce the campaign and begin to distribute information to those interested. Contact Mike Carpenter for any questions or if you're seeking additional information on the campaign.