Daktronics Videoboard Tops Renovation at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, FL
MLB Blue Jays’ spring home is regular-season home of minor-league Dunedin Blue Jays
Next month, half of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams will head south to the Sunshine State for a potential first step toward a World Series. The Toronto Blue Jays will be treated to a revamped TD Ballpark in Dunedin, FL, when they reach Spring Training. The $102 million project includes a 23- by 40-ft. Daktronics videoboard and an improved audio surround system. When the MLB club heads back north of the border, the Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays will reap the benefit of this multi-year renovation.
“It’s a full Daktronics [renovation],” says David Evans, entertainment coordinator, Dunedin Blue Jays, who is in his first year with the organization. “They’ve come into TD Ballpark and installed a whole new videoboard and a state-of-the-art surround-sound system, so this is going to be all-new and fresh for the fans coming this spring. [The board] is a 15HD-pixel layout, so it’s specifically set up for outdoor viewing, and it’s going to look pretty awesome.”
Up to the Wire: Project Continues ’Til Opening Day
Since Pinellas County approved the plan in April 2018, it has been a pretty chaotic time. With the venue hosting both temporary and more-permanent residents — Toronto’s Spring Training runs from February to mid March; Dunedin’s season is April-September — the agenda needed to be cleared by the necessary individuals from all participating parties.
“It takes time to iron out the details between the county, city, state, and the two teams,” Evans explains. “It has been a joint venture to figure out how everyone gets what they want and know that [each party] is happy with the end result.”
When the plan was signed off and received the greenlight, the team began working on upgrading a videoboard that had seen better days.
“Our old videoboard was something from the 1980s,” he says. “It was just a line score with a digital input of the numbers and one small double-layered tech strip where we put the player’s name and what he did so far that day.”
The project is slated for a completion date of Feb. 19, but, with Toronto’s first exhibition game vs. the Atlanta Braves a few days later, on Feb. 24, Evans and his staff are handling a lot of the prep work before the last piece of dirt is put into place.
“We’ll have a pretty short window,” he says. “I’m creating all of the content for the [videoboard] now. That’s all of our headshots, player graphics, trivia, and other elements.”
As for the overall construction, the staff in Dunedin is kicking operations into overdrive to reach the finish line.
“The bulk of the work was done this past year,” says Evans. “A lot of the games and other activities were done in the complex adjacent to the stadium, so the work could be done over here. It hasn’t really been done in phases since it has all been done this offseason, but we’re working right up to the buzzer.”
A Blue Jays Family: Establishing Synergy With the Club
In professional baseball, there is a lot of interaction among the levels of the organization. Just like players receiving instruction from coaches at the highest level, an entertainment coordinator can pick up tidbits of advice from the team.
“In regard to Spring Training, I work closely with Mike Christiansen [director, technical production and broadcast services, Toronto Blue Jays],” says Evans. “[Mike and his staff] will be coming down here a couple of weeks before [the start of Spring Training], and we’re going to have our meetings to create an atmosphere that fans are used to having in Toronto.”
To establish that synergy, Evans and his four other staffers will use three Daktronics essentials in producing their show. For Spring Training and the entirety of the Dunedin season, DakStats will handle live updates and statistics, the All Sport 500 console will toggle scoring elements, and Show Control will serve as the central hub for the videoboard with graphics integration. For even more precision, the staff will be using DMP-8304 Media Players as the primary graphics engine as well as VIP-5160 display processors to adjust lighting and color.
Despite not having MLB-level equipment, Evans wants a seamless production that parallels the show done in the Rogers Centre. For fans, coming to Dunedin will be like swiping your passport for a trip to Toronto.
“It’ll feel very familiar and comfortable,” he says. “I want to hit on all of the traditions that they do in Rogers Centre: [for example], if they have a certain song that they want to be played when the gates open or play ‘OK Blue Jays’ after the seventh-inning stretch. I want the synchronicity between both ballparks.”
Playing Loose: Minor-League Structure Enhances Fun, Fan Interaction
In the minor leagues, fan entertainment and marketing material are run by a different set of rules. With a 2020 promotional schedule that has nights dedicated to hurricane preparation, fishing, and both beer and bacon, Evans will be able to express a more lenient sense of creative when the major-league team leaves the premises.
“After Spring Training, there is a bit more flexibility and freedom for the Single A [schedule],” Evans explains. “It’s a little looser. It’s not Major League Baseball, but you still want to make a fun atmosphere for fans.”
For the first couple of months of this year’s schedule, Evans will have to keep an eye on the normal duties of an MLB in-venue production, which includes sponsorship responsibilities and specific messaging. Once the MLB team heads home, it’s clear skies for the crew to put their own plan into place.
“We’re not as restricted as [Toronto] is, where they need to meet the deadline of a [play] clock and have walk-up songs be 10 seconds or less,” he adds. “[The rundown] is a bit tighter during the spring, but we have a lot more content with fun activities and promo nights that come with minor-league baseball.”
Not Just a Videoboard: Improved Sound, New IPTV System
Although the centerpiece of the expansion is the videoboard, the stadium is getting two other notable enhancements. To complement the modernized look of the visuals on the board, the organization also decided to tinker with the audio fixtures in the venue where sound can be projected in a whole new way.
“This upgraded audio system includes full-distributed sound to provide fans with a complete audiovisual makeup,” says Evans. “The system provides a full range of sound reproduction and delivers clear and intelligible speech for a premium audio experience.”
In addition, a TriplePlay IPTV system will enhance the amenities for fans in the stadium’s best seats. This system will also allow the production crew to feed the LED digital displays stationed throughout the concourses.
“Fans sitting in suites will be able to have access to the feed from the videoboard, the live feed of the game, or other things that we want to provide for them,” he says. “Along the concourses, all of the menus will be digital, so we’ll be able to change those daily through a central system or hourly if a food or drink option is unavailable.”
Further, a small visual enhancement will be made. For a traditional, fixed digital setup, a 4- by 9-ft. board will be erected along the third-base line.
The Past Drives the Future: Even More Content Creation
Normally, looking back on past achievements can sometimes hinder progress. In this case, Evans’s work in the past can inspire a fervor for more innovation moving forward.
“I worked at the Peoria Sports Complex [the Spring Training home of the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres] for the last seven years,” he says. “I worked with Daktronics over there as well, and I know the capabilities.”
With a well-known individual at the helm and the foresight to improve the current situation, things are looking up for a team that doesn’t have an infrastructure to shoot live footage of a game. In the next year or two, the goal is to have multiple in-venue cameras along with a NewTek TriCaster TC1 production switcher.
Today, Dunedin Blue Jays fans are in for an enhanced game-day experience all season long, starting when they walk through the turnstiles on Saturday, April 11 for their team vs. the Clearwater Thrashers.
“My philosophy is, when fans walk into a baseball stadium for the first time, they look at two things: the field and the videoboard,” says Evans. “It’s really going to make this ballpark on-par or even above the other facilities here in Florida.”