Joining the Big East sure has its perks. Just look at the Sun Dome.Following a renovation that included new carpet, chairs and a hardwood floor, the 25-year-old dome got its most attractive addition: four state-of-the-art, 126-square-foot video screens and four 90-foot-long ribbon scoreboards.
They were installed last week, just in time for the men’s basketball team’s Big East opener against West Virginia.
And not only did those who attended get to see a good game – the Mountaineers barely squeaked by with a four-point win – they got to be the first to see what those involved are calling the best video system in college basketball.
“They’re among the best in the country, period,” said Associate Athletic Director Tom Veit, who worked closely with the installation. “But we’re the best college building in the country.”
Two of the four screens are used for video, while the other two are used for statistics and information.
“The system is set up so that everybody in the building will see both the 10-millimeter and 23-millimeter screens,” Veit said.
What sets the Sun Dome apart is the high resolution on the screens used for video. The resolution of a board is determined by a measure of millimeters – the lower the millimeter count, the higher the resolution. The two screens used for video are 10-millimeter screens. The screens used for stats and information are 23-millimeter.
“I’m not aware of another college that’s got anything bigger and clearer,” said Jason Moen, a project manager at Daktronics, the manufacturer of the video screens inside the Sun Dome.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like these screens,” said Big East Associate Commissioner Tom Ojakjian, who attended the game. “We play in some professional arenas, and they all have top-notch scoreboards, but nothing like this. I even said to a few people, ‘It almost looks better than real.'”
The eight boards cost somewhere between $1.8 million and $2 million, according to Veit – but USF didn’t pay a dime. Action Sports Media, a company that helps universities market, footed the entire bill in exchange for the right to sell advertisements.
The Sun Dome and Action Sports have a revenue sharing agreement, but the exact numbers aren’t available because the Sun Dome is not public. Veit said it’s a win-win situation for USF.
“There’s absolutely no cost for the boards, and we’ll get revenue share,” Veit said.
To operate the system, a brand new control room was built, which accommodates the 11 people required to manage all eight screens.In the future, as the operating crew becomes more comfortable, Veit said fans can expect much more than what they saw against West Virginia.
“We used probably 10 percent of the capabilities that first game,” he said. “Our goal is to do everything right and we’ll keep adding and building. When you come back in a year, it’s going to be so much more than what you saw that first game. You come back next week and it’ll be more.”For example, Veit said USF shot some “fun stuff” with players from both basketball teams that will be shown during timeouts and other breaks in the action.
Veit also said that when USF games are televised on ESPN360, an Internet-only broadcast stream, the Sun Dome will be able to put the games on the screens and hold watch parties. And the next time the football team goes to a bowl, Veit said the game could also be shown at the Sun Dome.Fans at the game marveled at the new screens.
“I thought they were awesome. They brought a lot more atmosphere,” said senior Andrew Frankel, who watched the game from the student section. “And they were needed, too.”
The new screens replaced those installed 25 years ago, before any player on the basketball team was even born. Veit said the Athletic Department was just waiting for the right time to upgrade.
“But our attitude was (that) we wanted to do things over the long haul,” he said. “We waited, and it was tough to stay with those old scoreboards. But now we have state of the art.”
Before the tip-off against West Virginia, USF President Judy Genshaft and Athletic Director Doug Woolard ceremoniously turned on the new video screens, sending the crowd into rampant applause and the Sun Dome into a new era.
“It makes such an impression when you walk in,” said Ojakjian, who visited the Sun Dome last year. “There’s not anybody who would walk into that building and not be wowed, no matter who it is. When the team improves and the attendance improves, it’s going to be a great home-court advantage.”