When Chukchansi Park, home of Minor League Baseball’s Fresno Grizzlies, opened 20 years ago, it was the beginning of the Fresno revitalization. Hopes were high that the stadium would be the cornerstone to the downtown district. In the 20 years since, the Fresno renaissance has seen a brewery district, shopping experiences, and more develop, which has brought more fans to the stadium.
Although there had been physical renovations to the ballpark—a new splashpad and kid zone as well as a standing-room bar area were added—the technology in the park was lagging. Although Chukchansi Park is one of the largest in the minors, it was operating with an outdated scoreboard, one old, single-source speaker in centerfield, and the original lights from 2002.
In 2020, the minors reorganized, and the Grizzlies went from a Triple-A club to the home of the Colorado Rockies Single-A affiliate. This enormous ballpark, which seats north of 10,000 fans, suddenly became the largest Single-A stadium in MiLB.
“Our thought process was every single night we want to be able to provide a Triple-A experience for our fans, and that’s where the new sound system, the new video board, the new lights really come into play,” said Jonathan Bravo, director of marketing and communications for the Fresno Grizzlies.
The transformation began with the centerpiece of the upgrade. The past saw two videoboards: a main board that displayed headshots, promotional graphics, and lesser-quality live shots, as well as an auxiliary board featuring additional sponsor messaging, players stats, and content.
“You had to think of it in two pieces,” Bravo explained. “You had to think what was going on the main board and then the smaller auxiliary board. With this new board, the ability to partition things is pretty much endless on our side. We’re able to have player headshots, lineups, and the line score—but also upcoming promotions and different sponsors. We used to have six or seven static signage abilities for partners, but now theoretically we can have as many partners as we want.”
The Grizzlies turned to Visua to install the 2,000-square-foot VisuaLED videoboard as well as three BirdDog A200 PTZ cameras (one in centerfield and one in each dugout) and a pair of JVC GY-HM850 wireless cameras. Also installed were a Teradek 4K Max wireless receiver and transceiver, NewTek TriCaster TC1 production system, and NewTek 3Play 3P2 replay solution.
“One of the other cool things we implemented was using the cellphone as a wireless camera,” explained Matt Baker, general manager of Visua/VirtCh. “With the new NDI technology, we are able to take any of their cellphones, scan a QR code, and we can turn that into a wireless camera that we can bring into the TriCaster, basically adding a third wireless camera to their show.”
Visua’s virtual producer service VirtCh helped install MotionRocket, a content and graphics solution for the scoreboard. Fresno now has a strong partnership to create the content needed to bring the videoboard to life.
“We are lucky with Visua and VirtCh. If we need a motion graphic for home runs, that’s something they can brand for us and pump out,” Bravo added. “A lot of the specific content, like most recently the Jackie Robinson Day graphic, is in house. It’s working hand-in-hand with VirtCh. It’s a great partnership where we really treat them as members of our front office.”
Built to Last
Weather—particularly the intense heat of the Central Valley—was a strong consideration for the equipment installed. “It’s great peace of mind,” Bravo said. “Our Fourth of July game is the biggest game of the year. To know that videoboard will turn on and will function as it’s supposed to is a huge weight off our shoulders.”
However, Virtch’s help extends well beyond the videoboard. “They are also remotely producing games for us Sunday through Thursday,” Bravo explained. “Our upstairs control room looked like 1960s NASA, and now to have all modern flat screen TVs, a brand new TriCaster, and the fact that they are able to remote in is great for us because we get directors that produce games for a living. That kind of experience is invaluable.”
Visua also brought digital signage to the concession stands. Using SAVI controls and 18 new LG TVs, Fresno has control of sending new content to its menus and the live in-house feed directly to the screens for a completely immersive experience anywhere in the park.
Gone is the big old speaker; Visua replaced it with 125 all-weather JBL Professional AWC Series speakers. Whether they are in one of the more than 30 suites, in a row along the second and third decks, or the concourse itself, the new sound system brings a completely new auditory experience to the fans, and employees alike.
The audio upgrade required all-new cabling and a BSS networked audio system that controls the zones, inputs, and outputs. The Grizzlies production team has full control and can partition sound throughout the ballpark. For example, they can play kids music at the splash pad while simultaneously having game audio in the concourse.
The lights hadn’t been updated since the original 2002 ballpark construction, and brought an unnatural, orange tinge to the field. The Grizzlies installed 172 Musco fixtures with its Total Light Control (TLC for LED) technology for a simplified, true daylight look for the games. The lights are managed via Musco’s Control-Link Central control and monitoring system.
Now, the production team simply flips a switch—whether it is on one of the two tablets or cellphones deployed throughout the park—and the all-LED system is up and running. There is no more warming up or cooling of the outdated ballpark lights, and Bravo and his team can create light shows that chase each other around or shoot up the foul poles in the entire gauntlet of colors.
For the Fans
Despite ongoing congestion issues from the pandemic, the install was ready just in time for Opening Day 2022. “We got there literally the week before opening, so we hustled to install,” Baker recalled. “But we had it up and running and it looked beautiful that opening night.”
Having the Visua team on hand for that opening weekend made sure that fan experience went smoothly. “Any time you bring in a new system you expect there is going to be a learning curve,” Bravo said. “We’re extremely fortunate to have a great production crew, but also we had the production team from Visua and Virtch out here for opening weekend so they could troubleshoot things in real time.”
Chukchansi Park has become the centerpiece in the heart of Fresno. Concerts are frequently held at the venue, as is “Taco Truck Throwdown,” a food competition that consists of 30-plus taco trucks. Most of the bands bring their own equipment that easily connects to Fresno’s new system, and the videoboard is used for promotions and sponsors during the Taco Truck Throwdown.
In the end the more than $2-million upgrade—made possible by the city of Fresno and naming rights group Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino—is all about the unique experience that is minor-league baseball. “To see the videoboard, see the lights, hear the sound system for the first time on opening weekend, it was instantly clear how much this impacts the fans enjoyment,” Bravo added. “So much about minor-league baseball is the entertainment, family fun aspect. For us to be able to completely skyrocket our production value and bring this experience to the fans has us very excited for what we can accomplish for the rest of this year.”