Now that the Minnesota Vikings’ season is officially underway, the digital signage technology at the team’s all-new U.S. Bank Stadium, which officially opened on July 22, 2016, will be one of the key ingredients to entice fans away from their beloved sofas and into the stands. Complete with state-of-the-art scoreboards, touchscreens for coaches and their play strategies, a way-finding app and several new-fangled attempts at boosting the convenience factor including super inclusive Wi-Fi networks, the U.S. Bank Stadium is a $60 million investment in interactivity for loyal fans and visiting spectators.
This mega venue comes at a time when any in-person entertainment or recreation must justify its ticket price by offering unique experiences that cannot be had from the comfort of one’s home or personal electronic device—not unlike the similar but less permanent solution of resurrecting 3D to boost numbers at the box office. But the U.S. Bank Stadium is different than the current situation with movie theaters in that it seems to have responded directly to the demands of its audience.
This is thanks in no small part to the diverse work that Daktronics did in bringing the stadium’s installations to life. After all, the 13 display boards of various sizes (including one of the top 10 largest in the league) that comprise 31,000 square feet of display space will be some of the most prominent technology featured at any event. Daktronics, the veteran company behind the digital signage at countless stadiums and arenas, is also responsible for a curved display made to look like a sail, which is part of an outdoor longship or “Legacy Ship” to drive home the Vikings’ brand. Digital Signage Connection caught up with Daktronics’ Regional Manager Tony Mulder and Senior Project Manager Alex Ohm to discuss their approach and process for making the U.S. Bank Stadium what it is today:
Q: How did Daktronics become so synonymous with sports stadium displays? What is the history there?
A: We entered the sports market in the 70s with a three-sided scoreboard for wrestling developed at the request of local wrestling coaches who saw the need. From there, we expanded to provide many more sports solutions and evolved with the sports industry through the years. We answered the requests and needs of our customers by continually advancing our technology and control systems from incandescent bulbs all the way to full-color LED video displays. We’ve developed a skilled and experienced service team to stand behind our products and work with our customers to help them achieve their goals with their new technology.
Q: Because of Daktronics focus on stadium displays, what kinds of things do you keep in mind to incentivize people to show up physically (to a place like U.S. Bank Stadium) in an age when it’s more convenient to watch from home or a personalized device?
A: The whole push is to give people a better experience in the seat than they would get at home. Television coverage has gotten so good over the years that stadiums need to continue to offer experiences for fans equal to or greater than they can get at home. Technology is a big avenue for that experience. Size of displays is important, but type and depth of information is equally important. Fan engagement is key, and technology is continually pushing the envelope to allow fans to be part of the experience instead of just watching the game.
Q: What was some of the inspiration for the signage at U.S. Bank Stadium?
A: Entertainment and engagement were two of the driving factors when the technology was designed. The technology was also designed to fit with the stadium, and not as an afterthought.
Q: The U.S. Bank Stadium has ribbon displays that will show out-of-town game scores and fantasy football matches. Is this the first time Daktronics has done something like this? Either way, where did this idea come from, and will it become commonplace (budget and infrastructure provided) as fantasy football becomes more and more of way for people to interact in the Internet age?
A: Fantasy Sports has become an enormous extension for the NFL fan base. All of the information for fantasy sports is essentially owned by the NFL, and Daktronics has worked hard to find creative ways to take that information and be able to share that with the fans through easy integration. The amount and information shared is generally a decision made by the teams themselves, but the Vikings have decided to push that envelope and give the fans more than most. We see those efforts continue to grow within the league as the interest in fantasy sports continues to grow. Daktronics continues to push its integration capabilities in an effort to be able to give teams and fans different information even before they know that they want it.
Q: How did you all overcome the structural and aesthetic challenges around the Legacy Ship fan display?
A: Daktronics has done many horizontally curved displays for different applications, but the request for such a large vertically curved display was somewhat unique. We had to go through an enormous amount of engineering and prototyping to make sure that the final design would look and operate like we would expect and that everyone would appreciate it from an aesthetic standpoint. Structurally, it wasn’t all that difficult as that is similar to what we do on a daily basis, but aesthetically, there were a lot of coordination efforts to make sure the steel mast column and secondary supports were integrated into the overall design.
Q: In the case of the U.S. Bank Stadium where many entities are involved, how do you all stay on the same page to ensure the vision is consistent?
A: Lots and lots and lots of coordination meetings. There were weekly technology coordination meetings as well as daily construction coordination meetings. We have done a number of jobs with Mortenson in the past and knew what to expect with them running the show from a general contractor perspective. They are an extremely detail-orientated group that definitely adheres to the “work smarter” mantra. This was certainly a difficult project with so many entities involved, but Mortenson did a masterful job of understanding and working through the complexity of those entities and the project.