Seattle Mariners Shatter MLB Record With Largest HD Video Board in Baseball

In the Pacific Northwest, a small-market team is making a big-market statement.

When the Mariners return to Seattle’s Safeco Field for their April 8 home opener, an HD-video upgrade four years in the making will finally be complete, an upgrade featuring the largest HD video board in Major League Baseball.

A rendering of the Seattle Mariners’ new video board

A rendering of the Seattle Mariners’ new video board

Measuring 56.7 ft. high by 201.5 ft. wide and covering 11,425 sq. ft., the Panasonic HD video board surpasses the one at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium (84 x 105 ft., or 8,820 sq. ft.) as well as those at both Cowboys Stadium (72 x 160 ft.) and Charlotte Motor Speedway (80 x 200 ft.) to become the largest in baseball and the widest in American professional sports. The screen replaces the previous scoreboard, which was built in 1999, the inaugural season of Safeco Field.

The video board, which combines 1080p x 3840 screen resolution and surface-mount LED technology, fills the same center-field location and space as the original scoreboard. Because the entire board is an HD screen, it will offer nearly 10 times more video real estate.

“We weren’t trying to break any records, necessarily,” says Dave Curry, VP, technology, Seattle Mariners. “One of the things that we wanted to do, for sure, was be able to do true 1080p resolution. We felt that there’s a visual advantage in actually having all of the lines present and not having to use software to control the picture, just actually going pixel-for-pixel right from an HD camera. That was our goal, and we were able to achieve that with the product that we selected.”

In addition to the video-board upgrades, the Mariners gutted and reconstructed their scoreboard-control room. Located on the 200 level behind home plate, the control room had been entirely SD and analog since 1999.

Integrated by Diversified Systems, the overhauled control room features a Ross Video Vision 3 switcher, XPression 3D character generator; and BlackStorm playout server; Evertz Xenon 96×96 video router, terminal gear, and multiview processor; two six-channel EVS XT3 replay servers; and ANC Sports VisionSOFT 64-bit operating system.

The team also selected two Grass Valley LDX Première camera packages, a Sony PMW500/HD02 camcorder, FUJINON long- and short-range lenses, and three Canon HD POV cameras.

“What we’re going to be able to do now is provide Full HD 1080p from our own cameras,” Curry explains. “We’re going to still be taking video from our broadcast affiliate as well, but, when it’s coming from our cameras, we’ll be able to control the aspect ratio and the ultimate resolution. We’re really excited about what we’re going to be able to do visually with this canvas.”

Installation of the HD video board behind the center-field bleachers caps a four-year, $15 million maintenance and capital-improvement project for the Mariners. The team installed an LED out-of-town scoreboard in left field prior to the 2010 season and LED ribbon boards on the Terrace Club fascia before the 2011 season. All upgrades will be completed in time for the 2013 regular-season opener.

The Mariners will be able to program the board for a single, live-action shot or video replay or segmented for graphics, animation, statistical data, or digital signage. For Curry, it’s one thing to install a board of this magnitude; it’s quite another to use the board in a creative and dynamic way. The game-day presentation crew is up to the task, he says.

“In order to continue to attract fans to attend the live event, because we all have big screens at home and we can watch things on the go, you have to be able to provide a superior experience,” he adds. “You’re just not going to be able to get this at home. We can provide camera angles, replays, and special programming inside our ballpark, and now on a huge scale that you just can’t get at home.”