University of Pittsburgh Decks Out Petersen Events Center With New Centerhung Ahead of Busy Fall Sports Schedule

LED displays were placed in two other venues as well

In the city of Pittsburgh, the fall and winter months bring temperatures below the freezing point and a sun that sets earlier every day. With local professional networks enhancing their facilities, programs at the collegiate rank have made some major upgrades to bring some additional (albeit artificial) light into the lives of college basketball fans. Before the rush of an unrelenting fall season, the University of Pittsburgh went to work inside Petersen Events Center, affectionately called “The Pete,” to install a brand-new Daktronics centerhung videoboard with 3.9-mm LED line spacing.

The new centerhung videoboard at Petersen Events Center features 3.9 mm of LED line spacing, the lowest in college athletics.

“Competitively, this centerhung sets us apart in college athletics because we are now the only college in the country that has a sub–4-mm board,’ says Seth Graham, assistant athletic director, information technology, University of Pittsburgh. “The centerhung has taken us from a college-type venue to one with more of a pro-style look.”

Let There Be Light: Four Separate LED Structures Brighten the Arena
The Pete’s crown jewel hovers just above the hardwood floor. At the center of it all, the centerhung videoboard features four non-continuous LED slabs and is accompanied by two 15- by 28-ft. panels along the sidelines and two 15- by 16.5-ft. panels along the baselines. Measuring 654 sq. ft., the scoreboard can be experienced at a maximum viewing angle of 140 degrees.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case. Years prior to the installation, the in-venue production was hampered by a scoreboard that functioned with bulky and lackluster technology.

“The old videoboards were purchased about 10 years ago,” Graham explains. “As we rebranded athletics, we identified these displays as antiquated. They didn’t offer us much value with enough real estate because the structure was a lot larger than the usable screen, so they didn’t offer fans the best viewing experience. People mainly looked at the old videoboard for stats.”

In addition to the main videoboard, a light-up Panther head is sandwiched between two massive 16.5- by 31-ft. video displays are plastered against the arena’s back wall above the concourse area. These large screens can project detailed statistics of key players and provide pertinent game information. And a new 2.1- by 50-ft. scorer’s table comes with six 2- by 8-ft. panels of lighting that allows sponsorship and other messaging to run along courtside.

Now pristine video quality and motion is at a premium inside The Pete. With a total pixel count of more than 4.6 million, the entire arena is brightly lit. As for content consumed on any given night, the entire layout allows Graham to up the game-day atmosphere.

The Petersen Events Center also includes two additional LED displays and a light-up Panther head above the concourse.

“What we have now is a more video-oriented structure,” he says. “Our rallies look better because, before, we could show them only on the fascia, scorer’s table, and the top boards. The sequence of playing the intro video and introducing the players has become ten times better. It has become an integral part of the game presentation.”

Three-for-One: Simultaneous Projects at Other Athletic Venues
Although the overhauls at Petersen Events Center lead the headline, two other venues, Fitzgerald Field House and Ambrose Urbanic Field, were given a revamp in the visual department as well.

Hosting the school’s volleyball, wrestling, and gymnastics teams, the former now includes two 10- by 23-ft. end-wall videoboards after 15 years of operating with the older videoboards from The Pete. As the home of both men’s and women’s soccer teams, Ambrose Urbanic Field was outfitted with the venue’s first-ever visual display of any kind in the form of a singular 17- by 30-ft. videoboard of its own.

In any other season, the extensive project of constructing multiple displays would have more time to marinate, but, because of the timing of it all, Graham and the rest of the staff needed to operate quickly.

“The RFP [request for proposal] went out, and the selection was made in June of 2019 to go with Daktronics, and a lot of the fall sports start in August,” he says. “We went by the start of each season, so we prioritized soccer and volleyball first since they happen at the same time. Those videoboards were installed during the last week of July.”

Although the displays weren’t anywhere near the field of play inside Ambrose Urbanic Field and Fitzgerald Fieldhouse, the university developed a give-and-take solution to make progress in the Petersen Events Center.

“We needed to be conscious of access to be able to work,” Graham says. “So we had to get a [temporary] floor down to support the weight of the lifts. We had to work with both of our basketball teams and also our volleyball team because their practices are sometimes down at The Pete along with their summer camps. We have concerts and other events at this building, too, so we had to get to a point where the centerhung is complete enough to be raised and lowered.”

Next Phase of Video Content: University’s Mission To Enhance Productions
The past year has been a period of immense growth. In the classroom, the university established a partnership with nearby NEP Group to foster the next wave of AV professionals. For the sake of the program and the then-upcoming launch of the ACC Network, the program redid the production studio to become a central hub of operations inside the Petersen Events Center. With these efforts and the $3.1 million improvements to the buildings their teams call home, the Panthers look to catapult themselves and their creative ideas toward a better future.

“We’re looking to install a robotic 360-degree camera under the centerhung around December,” Graham says. “We’ll be able to show tipoffs from up above and have an angle that you’re not used to seeing in college [productions]. Pitt has invested a lot in video content over the past 12 months, and the videoboard is just another piece of that commitment.”

The next contest at Petersen Events Center will feature men’s basketball vs. West Virginia on Friday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. ET.