In the past two years, the most notable development in the scoreboard industry is a steep rise in the number of colleges and high schools opting for LED full-matrix systems previously seen only in professional sports arenas. Manufacturers are also reporting spikes in sales of full-color message centers with tighter resolutions.
Sophisticated scoring and display systems are an option for more and more high schools because the cost of the technology has come down and the systems' digital video capabilities enable schools to air commercials during sporting events, which in time covers the cost of the scoreboard. But while high schools with ambitious booster clubs or deep-pocketed corporate sponsors can procure the necessary funding for the latest and greatest in scoreboard technology, for the vast majority of parks and recreation departments and youth sports associations, such advanced scoreboards are far out of reach due to budget constraints. In fact, for some organizations, owning a scoreboard of any type would be a luxury. The Spokane Youth Sports Association in Washington, for example, is set to start construction this fall on five new softball fields and eight soccer fields, none of which is likely to have a scoreboard.
"It would be nice to have one signature field with a scoreboard, but that's more of a dream than a possibility," said Executive Director Philip Helean, adding that the association's soccer teams rely on parents keeping score with a pen and paper on the sidelines.
With budget restrictions in mind, before examining the increasingly popular LED full-matrix scoring systems (which in some cases actually can be acquired for free, provided the recipient—usually a high school or college that can prove it draws sizable crowds to sporting competitions—enters into a marketing agreement whereby the manufacturer sells ad time to sponsors and pockets a percentage of the proceeds), this article will explore the full range of scoreboard options on the market, starting with the simplest and most inexpensive.