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SBJ/20090419/Building for the Future
New scoreboard a pretty big deal
Published April 19, 2009
No design element defines the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium as much as Mitsubishi Electric’s monstrous center-hung scoreboard, the first of its kind in the NFL.
HKS design principal Bryan Trubey always wanted to develop such a showpiece in a stadium setting, but he never had the opportunity until his firm won the job to design the Cowboys venue. Team owner Jerry Jones loved the idea of making a dramatic statement with the board.
“We’re lucky that Jerry grabbed onto it and wanted to run with it when we proposed it to him,” Trubey said.
The board’s immensity, weighing 1.2 million pounds and stretching from one 20-yard line to the other, is unparalleled in big league sports, and there was a time during stadium development that the Cowboys wanted an even larger unit.
“We looked at it in three or four different scales,” Trubey said. “It increased in size dramatically from what we had been proposing originally. Jerry wanted it bigger and bigger and bigger, until we actually came down a bit in size because it was too big for the room.”
Its location, 90 feet above the field in the center of the stadium, will not block views of the game — nor be a threat to punts and kickoffs — and frees up real estate in the open end zones, where the Cowboys can set up portable seating for events such as the 2011 Super Bowl and the 2014 Final Four.
“We didn’t want to block anything,” Trubey said. “We wanted all our seats on the sidelines, and we wanted the end zone platforms open so you could see in and out of the building real easily.”
Trubey also thinks the sight lines work better for a center-hung board in a stadium than in an arena because a football field is much wider and longer than a basketball court or hockey rink, so fans don’t have to crane their necks to see the screens.
The Cowboys are marketing the behemoth as a premium amenity for the 50,000-plus fans paying for the least-expensive seats in the upper deck, where they’ll be sitting at eye level with the giant screens. Jones said those fans might spend more time watching the board than the action down below.
“Your mind may not be able to differentiate when you’ve left the stadium, ‘Did I see the game on the board or on the field?’” he said.
Cowboys personnel plan to use eight in-house cameras, separate from national network feeds, to roam the stadium in search of what’s happening in places fans don’t have time to get to or have access to on game days.
“If your quarterback’s being X-rayed in the dressing room, you’ll be able to see that,” Jones said. “The idea is, as opposed to sitting at home watching it on television, when you come here, you will experience what goes on with being at an event.”
It’s an edge the center-hung board provides in teams’ escalating fight against consumers’ high-definition home theater systems, said Mark Williams, an HKS associate principal.
“The biggest competition for why you wouldn’t want to come here is you could sit at home and watch the Cowboys play on a 50-inch flat-screen TV in your living room, sitting in your favorite chair,” Williams said. “That’s a pretty serious option we looked at.”
Hanging the gigantic structure from the retractable roof provided a complex exercise in design engineering because of the sheer weight of the board and the risk of putting too much pressure on the two arch trusses that hold everything in the stadium together.
“Recognize that when you put all that weight on top of the roof, it will cause those arches to drop,” said project manager Jack Hill. “For us to be able to complete the tie-in of the roof at the perimeter, we had to fully weight the roof to simulate what it’s going to be under normal conditions.”
The board’s engineers laid 5,000 sandbags on the structure, each weighing 50 pounds, to simulate the weight of the video panels, removing them as each panel was installed. They considered using 55-gallon drums of water but decided against it because of all the electrical work involved, Hill said.
“Give HKS and [structural engineer] Walter P Moore all the credit,” he said. “It was a tremendous engineering effort in close coordination with the construction team.”