High school stadiums across the south metro are looking more like big-league sports venues with new scoreboards, including some high-tech versions with large video screens capable of showing instant replays and commercials.
Burnsville High planned to debut its new 24- by 14-foot video screen this weekend at a home game, and St. Thomas Academy aims to have its similarly sized screen installed by the end of September. The stadiums at Rosemount and Lakeville South high schools also recently got new scoreboards.
But the new scoreboards don’t come cheap, with costs between $300,000 and $400,000 for the high-end versions. And not everyone agrees with installing the high-tech amenities. When Prior Lake added its new video scoreboard in 2014, School Board Member Richard Wolf questioned the scoreboard’s necessity and wondered about exposing students to the advertising featured on it.
In Rosemount, where officials recently dedicated a more modest update — a $56,000 scoreboard with a green shamrock on top — Athletic Director and Assistant Principal Mike Manning said the school wanted to stick with the “old-time stadium feel.” Some people said they wanted a video board, Manning said, but he opposed the idea.
“It’s unbelievable to spend $450,000 on something like that at the high school level,” he said. “I just think it’s over the top.”
Part of the motivation is keeping up with the Joneses, school officials and athletic supporters said. And increasingly, many high schools are choosing larger scoreboards.
“There’s probably an arms race element to it,” said John Millea, spokesman for the Minnesota State High School League. “As more schools get them, other schools see them and the desire’s probably there.”
In Prior Lake and Burnsville, fundraising by booster clubs and alumni associations has paid the bill, along with the sales of advertising near the screen. Sponsors paid for the new scoreboard at Rosemount’s field. A donor covered the cost at St. Thomas.
Revenue in view
Lakeville South put up a $65,000 model in late July with a video screen. “It brightens up the stadium and gives a new viewing experience for our general public,” said Neil Strader, Lakeville South’s activities director.
Athletic programs could also benefit from extra revenue from advertising on the scoreboards.
Prior Lake school officials said advertising near the scoreboard would bring in $60,000 to $80,000 per year through contracts with sponsors. The money will go to the booster club to defray the cost of athletics and activities.
Burnsville is also selling advertisements. The school also hopes the scoreboard will entice more sporting events and teams to rent out its Pates Stadium, said Jeff Marshall, the Burnsville athletic and activities director.
Richard Pomije of Burnsville’s Black and Gold Alumni Foundation said many students will benefit — not just football stars.
“They want every [Burnsville High School] student up there at least once,” he said.
The school could show replays of other school activities during football games or plan to feature each senior on screen at graduation. And Marshall said having the screen will allow students to learn to create commercials, operate the scoreboard and run the camera.
“It’s about more than football, which is exciting,” he said.