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.