ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Tomorrow, University of Michigan’s athletic director Warde Manuel will seek approval from the Board of Regents to move forward with a $41 million project to replace the scoreboards and audio production equipment at the iconic Big House.
It’s a big price, and big project — work isn’t expected to be completed until the fall of 2023, nearly 18 months from now — that will bring Michigan Stadium’s audio/visual setup up to date, the department says.
“The existing Michigan Stadium video scoreboards were installed in 2011 and have exceeded their anticipated service life,” Manuel wrote in a action request letter to Michigan’s Board of Regents. “The technology of these scoreboards has become obsolete and it has been increasingly difficult to source replacement parts.”
Manuel says the athletic department will fund the project, but it may need help from the school’s general fund for construction costs. Ann Arbor-based landscape architect firm SmithGroup, Inc., has been selected to design the project.
But is the price tag too big? New videoboards are a common amenity across college athletics, and they’re only getting bigger, brighter and more sophisticated. They’ve also become a major feature at new NFL stadiums. Costs are sometimes hard to come by, and can vary depending upon source, but here’s a look at some recent scoreboard projects and their cost:
• Maryland — One of the most recent stories of a new scoreboard going up came in October, when the University of Maryland installed two videoboards at their football stadium, Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. The board in the West end zone measures 120 feet by 54 feet and is currently the largest scoreboard in the Big Ten Conference. Maryland also installed a 34 foot-by 18 foot board in the East end zone. The new boards replaced the previous board, which was more than 15 years old and considered one of the most antiquated football scoreboards in the Big Ten Conference. According to NBC Sports Washington, the cost of the project was $15 million.
• Oregon — Not long before that, in November 2020, the University of Oregon unveiled a new 47 foot-by-26 foot video board at its iconic football facility, Autzen Stadium. According to OregonLive, the project cost $12 million.
• Syracuse — Unveiled in September 2020, Syracuse University debuted a 20 foot-by-62 1/2 foot center-hung scoreboard as part of a $118 million renovation of the Carrier Dome, home to the school’s football and basketball programs, according to Syracuse.com. A separate price tag for the scoreboard was never disclosed.
• Auburn — The University of Auburn debuted a new 190 foot-by 57 foot video board at Jordan-Hare Stadium in 2015, with LED screens, a new audio system and exterior signage. According to AL.com, that project cost $13.9 million.
• Los Angeles Rams — The biggest scoreboard in the country, at both the college and pro level, resides at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. The estimated $5 billion stadium includes a 360-foot, double-sided 4K board. Since the project was privately financed, costs were never disclosed.
• Dallas Cowboys — As far as price, the next closest project involved the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys with the opening of their new stadium in 2009, now AT&T Stadium, in Arlington, Texas. The $1.3 billion facility included a massive 160-foot, high-definition scoreboard (at the time, a big deal) that cost $40 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
What does this all mean? Well, the price tag is a bit high, but without seeing the scope of the project — Michigan says the new boards will be the same height, 62 feet, but will be wider — it’s difficult to assess. The costs of goods and services are higher than ever these days, and the assumption here is that the new screen quality will be 4K to serve the next decade-plus.
We should know more on Thursday, when Manuel goes before the board to make his case.