As people returned to arenas and stadiums for live sporting events, there was no denying that the product on the field was just as much as a fan factor as the product off it. During the pandemic, many high schools and colleges addressed their Pro AV needs, as videoboards continued to grow larger, brighter, and more detailed. One question that arose was how smaller schools with lesser budgets could keep up in the race for better technology.
Meet Digital Scoreboards.
Chris Kirn, now the COO of Digital Scoreboards, was the vice president of marketing at Pepsi in 2013. The local high school that his children attended was going through a major athletics overhaul, from the turf to the technology.
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“They came to me and asked for help with some scoreboards, but I said, ‘Let’s do a videoboard,” explained Kirn. “I spoke to other companies, and [financially] I thought there was no way we could pull this off. So, I said, ‘What if I just do it myself?’”
Kirn gathered some donations and went to work with a small team on a one-and-done installation, mostly as a kind gesture for the school. But then, the public school across town called and asked him to install a videoboard. “And then Quincy University called," Kirn recalled. "In about a six-month period I had done six videoboards. Six became 12, 12 became 25, and I think it was my 30th project that we decided to go national.”
With Pepsi in the rearview window, Digital Scoreboards began hitting the trade shows and increasing its marketing efforts in 2015. To say it has gone well is an understatement. The company has completed roughly 650 installations everywhere from high schools to mid-major NCAA Division I schools. As with many Pro AV companies, Kirn reported a flat 2020, but has bounced back, up almost four times as much as prior to the pandemic.
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The company offers multiple LED lineups—it is a national distributor for Samsung (opens in new tab), for example—and multiple software options. “We’re not a manufacturer,” Kirn explained. “Schools like it that way. We are more like a consultant or advisor. We are a full signage company from a production and install standpoint, and our warranties are double some of our competitors.”
You won’t hear Kirn boasting about what big-name brand he brought into each school. “What makes each [installation] unique is that each was installed based upon individual needs of the school and venue based upon resolution, warranty package, and control system,” he said. “For example, Saginaw Valley State is one product, Grand Valley State is another, and Quincy and Point Loma a third. That is what makes us unique too: allowing schools to buy what works best for them.”
Digital Scoreboards provides two software suites for game operations and content, ProPresenter Scoreboard and ScoreVision. Both software choices offer zones for advertisements as well as gameday stats, scores, and videos. When you throw in Kirn’s background in marketing, suddenly Digital Scoreboards isn’t just a Pro AV consultation company, but also advises schools on how to further their advertising, bringing in extra value to the content produced.
“You can have rotating static ads, commercial zones with sound, and still have the scoring across the bottom or sides. It becomes a complete multimedia center,” he noted.
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Kirn estimates the company will finish work for 150 schools this year alone, with a good amount coming in the NCAA Division II ranks. Here’s a look at a few stadiums and fields that Digital Scoreboards had ready for a new look for the 2022-23 season.
Grand Valley State University
Digital Scoreboards worked with GVSU in Allendale, MI, and installed three new upgrades: a 14x29-foot videoboard at the GVSU Soccer Field, a 16x22-foot digital board in Kelly Family Sports Center, and a 10x19-foot videoboard for the lacrosse/track stadium.
“We ended up doing their soccer field with one product, their lacrosse, indoor track, and field hockey stadium with another product, and just finished up the field house with a different product,” Kirn said. “The beauty is, we are their first line of defense. They’re calling us for warranty work, service work, tech support, and everything else. So, they have one point of contact, while we’re fitting them with the right product.”
"The display at the soccer stadium is used for everything. We show a scoreboard graphic and then have live video or ads playing at the same time in other zones of the display,“ said Brent Tavis, assistant director of athletics, event and facility operations. "I have been really impressed with the final installation of these products.”
Quincy's campus in Quincy, IL, is a "hometown" job for Kirn. Legends Field, home to both Hawks' soccer teams, received a new 13x28-foot videoboard. The university has been using the scoreboard for everything from gameday content to school event promos and sponsor advertisements—but is "constantly finding new ways to utilize it," according to Josh Rabe, Quincy athletic director.
“Working with Digital Scoreboards is a pleasure because I did not feel like we were being pressured or sold their product,” he added. “It truly feels like we are working with people who care about our institution and the product we are using. Their availability before, during, and after is what all companies should strive for.”
Saginaw Valley State University
The Cardinals upgraded Harvey Randall Wickes Memorial Stadium in University Center, MI, home to the top-25 SVSU football team, with a 17x25-foot videoboard. But football fans weren’t alone; the soccer team saw a new 9x16-foot videoboard at Robert C. Braddock Field, and the field house received a 13x25-foot upgrade.
“With Saginaw we used 16 millimeters on their soccer field, so it was the same product as their football field,” explained Kirn as part of the installation strategy. “Since they are right next to each other, all the spare parts were interchangeable.”
Point Loma Nazarene University
In San Diego, the Sea Lions new videoboard was ready in late June for the 2022 season and measures 10x19 feet. As Jordan Courneya, assistant athletic director for event operations at Point Loma, said, the university is “crawling before we walk,” learning all the ins and outs of the videoboard and content. The future will have plenty of advertisements and athletic event alerts—but for now, it’s strictly high-quality sports.
“We were very impressed with the final installation of our project,” said Courneya. “Digital Scoreboards was very professional, hit all timelines, and answered any questions or concerns we had."