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Ballpark Upgrades for 2009

Last week, it was announced that the Ballpark in Arlington would be getting some video board upgrades. This is something that has been long since overdue. The changes are a mixture of additions and replacements, plus a couple of subtractions. Since I have a wealth of pictures of the place I’ve taken over the years, I’ll enhance with my own pictures showing the current status, as well as a few words of my own.
Given this will end up being a long article (due to my inclusion of pictures), I’m splitting it off onto its own page. If you’re reading this in a feed reader, you’ll have to visit my site to get the whole article.


Subtractions:
There’s not much in the way of true subtractions here. Due to (I would assume), the addition of the ballpark spanning ribbon of scoreboards, we will be losing completely two scoreboards from the park that will not be replaced. These are the small scoreboards behind Section 232, as well as the one that is at the back of Sections 11 and 12. I’ve got some pictures of these below. With the new stuff being added, they’re really not needed anymore.

Changes:
This is the biggest part of the overall change package. Mostly because what is being changed covers the largest amount of “real estate” in the park. Plus there’s more individual items.
The current rotating list of ads that are on the lip of the upper home run porch is being replaced with a video board, which will match the rest of the park, I would imagine. I remember when this advertising was first added a dozen years ago or so, folks who had season tickets up there were pissed, because they couldn’t lean over and look into the bullpen at all. I wonder if this new signage will change anything there. I would think not, but scoreboard tech has come a long way in the last half dozen years. We’ll see.

The biggest change by far is in left field. There are two changes there, and they’re huge both in scope, and in “feel”. The dot matrix board that was above where Hank’s Homies would stand is being replaced completely. It too was relatively new, if you recall, it was replaced a couple of seasons ago when we got the upgraded dot matrix board in center between the Coke bottles. This encompasses both the large and small boards. The small one was above the exit behind Section 3, and also the larger one that spans Sections 5-8. It will apparently be one big board now.
However, the biggest change in all of this is the replacement of the manual scoreboard in left field with a giant video screen. It’s something that has been needed for a long time, I think. While quaint, I think the manual scoreboard could have been a far better use of space with something electronic. There’s so much more that could be going on out there. I know a lot of people will probably not like losing the scoreboard out there, but I think the average fan will be far better served with a video board out there. It does appear that the regular large advertising boards will remain there (Southwest and Bud Light currently), just the actual scoreboard area will get replaced, not the entire wall.

Something else interesting about this is I wonder how visibility will be around the seats right near the Rangers dugout – or in the dugout itself. Take a look at this picture I took from a game in 1999. It’s Aaron Sele on the mound. I was sitting about two rows behind where Hicks sits.

As you can see, Sele is right in the middle of the video board area. If that’s moving between innings, it might be hard to see the players. I know there’s been some times I’ve gone to games in minor league parks that have nothing BUT video boards as their outfield walls, sometimes the players disappear into the glow coming from the screen. There’s no real way to know how that will play out until it happens. I wonder if this was even a consideration.
There’s some other non scoreboard stuff being changed. The protective screen that currently is in the sections behind home plate is being widened out to go over towards the photo wells. I’ve already seen a few messages online from people who sit down there complaining. IMO, the security of not having to worry about getting a ball (or worse, a bat) in the face is a good thing. Plus I have sat down there several times, the screen is that that big of a deal. If you’re truly paying attention to the game, it melts away. I also have little sympathy for folks who can actually afford to sit down there. Most of y’all are more interested in cell phones and being “seen”, not about the game. Friend of mine gave me the gift of a great phrase to describe people who can afford stuff like that which regular readers of my site will recognize. That being the “Boob Job and Cocaine Crowd”. ;)
Speaking of that crowd, a few years back, a “Commissioner’s Box” was added to the first base side of the line on the far side of the Rangers’ dugout. Well, they’re adding a similar box to the left field side. Since the park has opened, that area has been occupied by the tarp, when it was needed. It’s going to be more BJACC seats. Where the tarp will go is unknown. Can’t be too far away. Or they could stick it in front of the fence of the visitor’s dugout. :) There’s also what could be called a “Home Plate Commissioner’s Box” behind home plate. It will make the home plate area a lot more crowded, and not a lot of foul space. One of the renders shows these seats as benches, and not actual seats. I have a hard time believing they’re going to put that expensive of a seat fee on a bench. Would be ironic if it does happen, though.
New Stuff:
Something totally new to the equation is the “ribbon of scoreboards”. A lot of parks have these, and they’re also really popular in indoor arenas. I’m sure this will be mostly advertising, but it will also have cheerleader type stuff, and I’m sure it could have stats too, depending on how it’s broken down. The effectiveness of the info on these boards will be determined once actual games are played. We will have to wait on that. Apparently these boards are running from foul pole to foul pole. I think this will work out nicely – should give the park a “lively” feel (again, depending on what graphics are put up there.

I do wonder about the seats at the back side of the 100 level. As these boards will ring the park, I would hope some work was done as to not create obstructed views by the inclusion of these boards. I know the seats in the last 4 or 5 rows up there have views obstructed due to pillars. I would imagine the last row or two could be affected by the scoreboard ribbon, but again, time will tell on that. I dug up a picture I took back on Opening Day 1998 (hence the grainier digital camera shot) showing what I’m talking about. Depending on how far down they sit, the view of various parts of the ballpark will be obscured (possibly including the scoreboard above the upper home run porch).

The Future:
The stuff that has been announced already is all generally good. I don’t think any of these changes are anything I would consider “bad”. It is however, not everything that needs to be done. There’s two things that still need to happen.
First is to replace the postcard stamp size of a screen in upper right. I know the team likes taking in the advertising money up there with the various non changing advertisements up there, but the actual video screen is tiny compared to current offerings at other parks. This needs to be increased. A lot. What needs to be done is to devote ALL the space up there to a board. Now I know there’s issues relating to this. A giant video board is heavy. The structure needs to be able to safely support it. There was a plan a few years ago to replace Sections 301-304 or so with a big Jumbotron, but I was told the structure up there can’t support it, so it was abandoned. So I’m not going to be ignorant of those kinds of realities. But that aside, if I had the choice, the entire video board in upper right needs to be totally replaced with ALL video. If they want the advertising to remain (which I’m sure they will), they could create a ribbon of advertisements off the bottom of the slant of the roof. Move them all there.
On top of that, all the billboards in center need to be replaced with a huge uber high quality HD display. Yeah, those billboards are a source of income, but they could replace them with a giant video board that spans the space up there, and keep static advertisments up there most of the time, but use the space when something is going on that requires it. Replays, animations for Home runs, etc, etc. I’ve modified a picture I took on Opening Day 2008 below to show these ideas of mine:

I have been told that there are more scoreboard changes on the way, but what they are and when they will show up is as of yet unknown. What I’ve posted above are my own ideas, I don’t know what “Phase II” will encompass.
Another random idea I’d like is a public WiFi point for the Ballpark. Could be useful during games, I would imagine.
I’ll take my usual gaggle of pictures opening day 2009, so I’ll have some video evidence of the changes after opening day, and I’ll report on what I think of the new things once I’ve had a chance to see the new stuff in action. I’m also thinking I will need to retake the pictures that make up my “Seat Selector” feature. With so many changes and additions, they’ll look kind of old school. I now have a 12 Megapixel camera, so I can get some great shots now. Provided my leg is healed enough, I might give it a shot at some point in the 2009 season.
Here’s some links to other Ranger sites’ stories on the upgrades:

Got any thoughts on the changes themselves, or my thoughts on them? Please comment below.

Comments

  1. OU installed their new HUGE Soonervision jumbotron this year that is the second biggest screen in college football (behind the monster at UT). They divide it into thirds with stats on the left, video in the middle, and score on the right and then they often turn it into a full screen and devote all three sections to a certain feature. I could see something similar at the ballpark be a HUGE success. They can use sections of the screen be stilled advertisements that they change every inning or so and then whenever they want to do a big feature of some kind they turn the whole thing into one big screen.