HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech NCAA Division I hockey is already the biggest sports ticket in town, but thanks to the installation of a brand new video scoreboard at MacInnes Ice Arena, Huskies games just became can't-miss events.
Earlier this week workers completed assembly of the new four-sided, center-hung Mitsubishi video board, and a special media event was held Friday to showcase the features and describe the impact it'll have on the fan experience.
The total cost of the project reached $865,000, with $615,000 for the price of the board itself and $250,000 tied up in various infrastrucutre. The project's cost has been entirely covered by private donations targeted specifically for the scoreboard.
The new, four-sided video board hangs for display at a media event Friday inside the MacInnes Ice Arena.(DMG Photo by Stephen Anderson)
"It's even better than I thought it was going to be," Tech athletic director Suzanne Sanregret said. "You're not sure how the technology is going to look in your facility, but once it was up, it's better than what I really envisioned.
"... (It) exceeded our expectations."
The Pennsylvania-based company has produced displays for many college and professional facilities, including the world's largest high-definition display at Texas Stadium. Tech's video board is approximately 15 feet high by 14 feet wide, bigger than the previous scoreboard, and it weighs in at about 8,000 pounds.
According to Don Ellis, project manager at Mitsibushi, It took workers about two weeks to assemble the board in Houghton, and it includes 10-milimeter LED video screens on all four sides capable of displaying 1080p HD video, 16-milimeter matrix screens on all four sides and a 16-milimeter ring screen.
"I've done installations before where there hasn't been a video screen in the arena and it really changes the fan experience, and I think everyone's really going to like it," Ellis said. "... There's a lot of different controls, and it's going to take the school a little while to get used to what they've got. I think they're going to be really happy with it."
A video production room has been set up to manage all facets of the operation, which will require scripting how the board will be used from an hour before the game to half an hour after it.
"Every second is accounted for," Sanregret said. "... I was joking with our staff that the easy part is done now, the board is up. Now comes the hard part and the work of putting together the show, the advertising pieces and just all the content we need to put up there."
Tech has signed a deal to work with an executive producer from Total Sports Entertainment to help put together the fan experience. Student workers will help round out the production crew, including likely students from the Visual and Performing Arts working on video production. They'll work together to implement fan interaction components and coordinate replays during games.
"Last year our fans couldn't see replays. If you're out for popcorn or you're checking your phone, you missed it. This way you'll see replays," Tech head hockey coach Mel Pearson said. "It'll add some entertainment in the building between plays. I know our band does a great job, but it'll just add to the whole game experience.
"... It just shows our commitment to making our facility one of the best in college hockey."
While the in-arena experience will be dynamic, the web streaming will be much improved as well due to behind-the-scenes HD video upgrades. That'll impact many of Tech's other sports as well.
"It's not a hockey-only project, it's an all-sport project," Pearson said.
"Our web streaming is going to be incredibly enhanced to HD quality," added Sanregret, noting that streaming for football, soccer, volleyball and men's and women's basketball will all be upgraded. "The video board is not just impacting the ice arena, it's impacting, through its infrastructure, other venues."
Now more behind-the-scenes work continues to shoot all the video for team introductions, bios on players and developing the script.
Plans are in the works to showcase the board to fans at a ticket event later this year. It can be viewed at mtu.edu/webcams/ice-arena.