Ryan Field Videoboard Tripling in Size (And More)

Facilities, facilities, facilities. That is the knock on Northwestern Athletics. Ryan Field and Welsh-Ryan Arena sometimes look more comparable to high school venues than to their Big Ten counterparts.

One of the main qualms Northwestern fans have with their facilities is technology. At least at Ryan Field, this area is getting a makeover. Northwestern announced Monday it will make widespread renovations to the video presence at the football stadium.

Northwestern will triple the size of the current video board in the northeast corner of the facility, and it will add new LED ribbon boards above each end zone. The main videoboard will upgrade from 390 square feet to 1,100 square feet (44-feet-long). It will be operated from a new on-campus control room.

A 138-foot ribbon board will be placed on the facade of the Walker Terrace behind the north end zone. Above the south end zone, the previous board will be replaced by two boards stretching a combined 90 feet. These boards will be able to deliver more game information, spirit message, in-game promotions and other messages to fans.

The renovations come courtesy of a Northwestern partnership with Anthony James Partners (AJP), an audio/video consulting company. Previous AJP projects have included work on Michigan State’s Spartan Stadium and Breslin Center, Ohio State’s Ohio Stadium, the Green Bay Packers’ Lambeau Field and the Milwaukee Bucks’ BMO Harris Bank Center.

According to Northwestern Athletics’ press release, Pat Fitzgerald said the following:

“This is an exciting announcement for members of the Northwestern Football family and another indication of our commitment to providing the best possible gameday experience for fans and guests of Chicago’s Big Ten Team. Initiatives of this magnitude don’t happen without the hard work of many individuals across campus and the support of our terrific fanbase, so I’d like to thank all those who played a role in making these video board upgrades a reality. We can’t wait for our fans to join us in experiencing an enhanced gameday atmosphere when we take the field against the Golden Bears on Aug. 30.”

Northwestern opens the 2014 season at Ryan Field versus California in two and a half months. Other home games welcome opponents Northern Illinois (Sept. 6), Western Illinois (Sept. 20), Wisconsin (Oct. 4), Nebraska (Oct. 18-night), Michigan (Nov. 8) and Illinois (Nov. 29), although one of the games is subject to be played at Wrigley Field.

While the current video board lacks the picture of many other college and professional football stadiums, one of the main concerns involves obstructed video board views. Due to the Walker Terrace jutting out at the north end of the stadium, many seats at the northwest end lack the ability to see the video board clearly. Tripling the size of the video board will certainly help, but from pictures, it appears some of these seats  may experience repeated problems in terms of viewing the scoreboard.

Perhaps it is not coincidence Northwestern announced in February a change in organized seating for 2014. In previous years, the student section was positioned in the northwest corner, thus hindering the ability to see the video board. The new student section will be at the southeast corner of the end zone, meaning the larger screen should be an easy view for the students.

The new video board is sure to give Ryan Field a more modern feel and provide a better in-game experience for fans with clearer instant replay and crowd engagement. The screen is not likely to pull in a new recruit on its owner, but maybe it can add a couple more thousand fans over the course of the season. While it may have been difficult to make out who exactly was telling fans to put their hands up in the air at the start of the fourth quarter in the past, this should no longer be a concern.

Of course, Welsh-Ryan Arena continues to lack a video board. Chris Collins will continue recruiting with the harrowing knowledge he cannot pitch his prospects on watching their highlight reel slam dunks on instant replay. At least, not in the arena.

Although, talks were set in motion this past fall for upgrades to Welsh-Ryan Arena’s technological capabilities. Maybe this is foreshadowing a change in the basketball venue. Call it the video board that Collins built.

Northwestern University against University of Michigan during their game on Saturday, October 8, 2011 in Evanston, IL

Northwestern University Football against University Maine September 21, 2013 in Evanston, Ill.

  • Mark Wheaton

    Welcome to the 21st Century, NU Football. This is great news. Even better that the students will be able to finally see the board from the new student section.

  • GTom

    It’s good to see the continued attempts at trying to improve the in-game experience. We’re not all of the way there, yet, but ‘CatVision was pretty high on the things to be replaced.
    With regard to the Wrigley game, it’s not happening this year. I know we have an agreement for up to five games, but the whole arrangement was predicated on proposed renovations to Wrigley Field that have been mired much longer than anyone anticipated as the rooftop owners fight with the Cubs. Given six+ months of preparations for the last Wrigley game and the fact that season tickets include all scheduled home games, I cannot possibly see the Athletic Department scheduling anything for this year (which I’m fine with – I prefer Ryan Field, anyway).

  • PurpleHayes

    Great news, and agree this new video capability is sorely needed. A couple of other comments on information in this post. First, I love the choice of words that one of the games is “subject to being played at Wrigley”. Great choice of words–I felt we were “subjected” a few years ago, namely to triple the ticket price for half the view (and, famously, 98% of the needed playing area). Go ahead and play the occasional baseball game there, but I’d be thrilled if we never return for FB.
    Secondly, I had to resist a real LOL when I read “upgrade to WRA’s technological capabilities”. What’re they going to do–move the old Ryan Field video screen indoors?! C’mon, NU, let’s not spend any time applying lipstick to the pig. Let’s build a new basketball arena, and pronto.

    • Chasmo

      NU hasn’t lined up all the money yet to pay for its lakeside football practice center, so how is it going to be able to afford to build a new basketball arena?

      • PurpleHayes

        Fine, but all the more reason spending money to fix up WRA is definitely sending good money after bad. If we need to focus on lakeside first, fine. Put our $$$ there, get that built, and then let’s focus on really improving our lot, by funding toward a new BB arena. Every 75 years whether we need it or not!

    • PBRCat

      I cannot buy a trip to Wrigley after the ticket orders have been placed.
      As for the past game at Wrigley, I took heed from former Chicago Bears fans who attend NFL games at the ballpark. I purchased tickets based upon sight lines and the gridiron diagram. Too many newbies purchased high priced tickets which were premised upon what was excellent seating for a baseball game. Wrong! Some of the best seats in the house were in the upper deck along the first baseline. I was completely baffled as to why the ticket prices reflected baseball seating.
      I expect that someday in the future when Northwestern revisits Wrigley Field that the football field will be laid out differently. I did not accept all of the media hype about the East end zone as the Bears played with less space.

  • cece

    one word that matters most for the stadium….sound.

    also, in that rendering pictured, the bottom left part of the screen is blocked. hope that is not the case.

    • PBRCat

      Absolutely correct! The sound system must be improved dramatically!

  • NUProf

    The new video board (if legible in direct sunlight) will be a welcome addition. I was hoping that an updated sound system would also be announced but perhaps that was too muffled. Good food in addition would be too much to hope for! I believe McGaw Hall needs to be updated before a new arena can be realized. They need to finish the LakeShore project and then find a place to play for a year (The new DePaul arena?) while using the entire footprint of McGaw, the weight room and and the indoor practice field to make the new stadium or to totally redo the present one. My guess is this will happen at the earliest in 2018-19 and that’s optimistic.

    • cebpd

      Never tear down Welsh Ryan. Sorry, I don’t want to watch games in an NBA arena. Make WR the Cameron of the Big Ten. Get your corporate shit out of here.

      • NUProf

        I have no corporate shit (I hope) and agree that renovation should create a intimate experience for a small fan base.

      • PurpleHayes

        Let us never equate crappy facilities with tradition and/or charm. Hinkle Fieldhouse has both. WRA has neither. I think I have more respect for the past than most, but our place has horrible concessions, cramped passage ways, terrible acoustics, and the worst sight lines of any major college arena I’ve seen (Hinkle included). I’ve been visiting WRA over 40 years, yet if they offered me the detonator tomorrow, I’d push hard without hesitation. This isn’t about “corporate s***”–I’m not for that and don’t believe NUProf is either–instead, it’s about seeing and enjoying the game. (Oh, and you want Chris Collins to recruit better athletes? Ask him if WRA is a help or a hindrance.)

        • CatAlum

          It’s tradition for the alumni who went there, and compared to every other venue that is big, cavernous, with fans 25 feet away from the court, it’s charming.

          If you want to have comfort go to UIC or Bulls games. If you’re uncomfortable in the arena stay at home and watch the game,

          Concessions can be easily fixed, acoustics can be fixed, and the sun ^^^ can be fixed, same with the heating, cooling, etc. you don’t need to tear down one of the most unique arenas in the Big Ten.

      • GTom

        You can have both charm and comfort. WR has neither. Have you ever sat high up on the west side during a day game in February? You get the sun shining directly in your eyes, they overcompensate the heat and its like 95 degrees up there, the seats are incredibly uncomfortable, the sight lines are pretty horrible for an in-door arena, and (assuming the game is well-attended, which it usually is by opposing fans) there isn’t any room to put the four layers of winter clothing. People are doing great things with “retro” ballparks. A good architect could easily design something with ten times the character of WR while significantly upgrading the comfort of attending a game.

  • LTP

    Mike Polisky has agreed to return to LTP for a Q&A so let me know what questions you have on this. There are several other announcements that seem to be imminent so stay tuned.

    • why no 2nd video board? There is a section of the seats that cannot see the current one. Should have two-on opposite corners-so everybody can see one.

  • Peter

    TYBG!

    I agree that they could use some improvements to the sound system as well.

    Also, I don’t think there is anyway they move a game to Wrigley this year.

  • Make Some Noyes

    Take that ESU! You’re going down!

  • ABC

    In theory a mega video board is an improvement in the game day experience, but only if the “powers that be” actually replay controversial plays. NU fan are routinely denied replays that are remotely controversial, god forbid the fans should get riled up about something! This reluctance to let the fans decide a call is even more ridiculous when you consider that fans watching the TV coverage at home (or in the rich seats) can see just about every call replayed numerous times with commentary.

    • Chaddogg

      To be fair, this is not a Northwestern problem. B1G Rules limit the amount of times you can show controversial replays and at what speeds, and discourage teams from replaying bad calls against the home team repeatedly. Plus, many times, when the controversial call initially is in Northwestern’s favor, the video team does not replay the video in an effort to avoid antagonizing/riling up opposing fans and/or giving the referees a chance to see a blown call on the video board and go to replay (moreso the first than the latter)….

      • whatev

        “B1G rules” uh huh. If other teams do it, we should. who’s gonna stop us? what are the penalties against doing it?

        • Chaddogg

          Other teams don’t do it, and if they are, they shouldn’t have been doing it. I have no idea of the penalties. Regardless, the point is that this was not Northwestern’s fault….they were obeying the B1G rules.

      • skepticat
  • Wildcat Fan

    Does anyone know if Evanston will allow us to install permanent lights? I could see fine at the Ohio State game last year but my friends said the glare of the temporary lights made it almost impossible to see from their seats.

    • cebpd

      Ohio State and Michigan dont have permanent lights. I dont think we need them either.

      • Wildcat fan

        Michigan added lights in 2010 and Ohio State added them with their renovation this year

  • Notputtinghandsup

    Can we please get rid of “put your hands up in the air” it was fun for a while but our team gets rocked in every 4th quarter and it doesn’t hype anyone up it’s just stupid

    • cece

      what’s your alternative? marketing would surely like to know if there is a good alternative. most schools have such a song played on a regular basis in the 4th Q to rev up the crowd and some make a change of song after a few years.

      • Peter

        Nothing would be better.

        • cece

          gotta have some fun with music!

  • Wild About ‘Cats

    Three word reaction: FIX THE SOUND! It is patently ridiculous that public address announcements cannot be heard in much of the west stands, especially high up under the lid of the upper deck where I usually sit. Back when Dyche became Ryan, this was remedied for a year or two when the system worked, then, kaput! Fans were never told why the system went down or why no one in administration cared enough to repair it. And there’s still been no explanation. Those small speakers strung under the upper deck worked for a short while but that was a long time ago. I even read a promotional article years ago from the sound consulting firm that installed the sound system after the renovation about the methods they used. Simply stacking a bunch of loudspeakers in the north end zone won’t cut it. The old video board was no issue for me and the new one won’t be an improvement unless they FIX THE SOUND. Can someone at LTP get the NU Brain Trust to tell the fans whether this will be fixed and why it hasn’t been long before now????.

    • cardiac cat fan

      Completely agree! The sound coming from the stacks for speakers at the north end zone sound pretty bad. I hope they can sneak in a sound upgrade with the video board. Go ‘Cats!

  • Californicat

    I really hope they raise the board up compared to what’s depicted. Spending all that money to put in a video board whose lower left corner is blocked from certain seats is just silly. With that said, this is great news. First in a long line of desperately needed upgrades.