Houston Astros use technology to enhance the fan experience

Their new video board is the 4th largest in Major League Baseball.

As if it were carrying a delicate egg to its nest, a giant crane lifted the final section of the Astros' massive new scoreboard into place Wednesday afternoon, completing the physical construction of the state-of-the-art, high-definition video board.
With president of baseball operations Tal Smith and general manager Ed Wade among the club officials watching the ceremonious maneuver from the field at frigid Minute Maid Park, the 54-feet high and 124-feet wide board is now in place and will be partially operational in about a month.
The board, which dwarfs the ballpark's old video board that was 26-feet high and 45-feet wide, will be the fourth-largest of its kind in Major League Baseball. It will be fully functional for the public to view for the first time when the Astros face the Red Sox in a March 30 exhibition game.
"We're all preparing for the 2011 season, and this is a big part of fan entertainment," said Astros senior vice president of communications Jay Lucas. "A lot of ballparks and arenas are going to HD, and we have to compete with home. People can stay at home and watch HD, and now they can come to the ballpark and have two full, true HD boards, and the overall entertainment is going to be much improved here."
The Astros will have the largest video board in the Major Leagues that features 1080i display format (16:9 ratio). The Twins and Brewers are the only other clubs that have this format, but their boards are smaller.
In addition to the giant new scoreboard in right field, the club has added a new high-definition board in the upper deck in left field and ribbon boards that span from foul pole to foul pole along the outfield mezzanine level.
"The Astros are staying ahead of technology by what they're looking to do," said Dan Fjeldheim, south-central regional sales manager for South Dakota-based Daktronics, the company that designed and installed the boards. "There's only about three of these true high-definition boards in Major League Baseball, so this is kind of state of the art, so to say."
The new board in left field was constructed to give the fans seated in the right-field and center-field seating areas the opportunity to view a video board, which had not been the case in the ballpark's first 11 seasons.
The project, which also includes moving the press box up one level and adding special club seating behind home plate, will cost between $13 million and $15 million.
The large board in right field that was completed Wednesday came in 91 sections, each about 10-feet wide and eight-feet tall. The sections arrived at the ballpark three weeks ago and were pieced together one-by-one from the bottom up.
"Now we've finished with the physical installation part of it, we'll go ahead and start doing all the interconnects from an electrician standpoint and over the next couple of weeks start to turn on sections on the board and work out some test of the control systems and all that stuff," Fjeldheim said.
The boards will be partially in use when the Astros play host to the Houston College Classic, a premier college baseball tournament at Minute Maid Park scheduled for March 4-6. Lucas said fans are in for a treat.
"This is going to allow the ballpark entertainment guys to do a lot more things -- features for sponsors, features for fans and replays," he said. "The ribbon boards will have images all around the ballpark, and overall the quality is going to be much, much improved."
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