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State-of-the-Art Big A Board to Debut Tonight

August 05, 1994|GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Fans who go to see the California Angels tonight are sure to see at least something sparkle at Anaheim Stadium.

Making its debut at tonight's game against the Chicago White Sox will be the new $3.6-million Sony Jumbotron Video board. The board is bigger and more technologically advanced than its predecessor, which toppled during the Jan. 17 Northridge earthquake.

Not only are its color images far brighter, but it is also a good deal more resilient, seismically speaking, officials said. Although the screen is 37% larger than the old one, it weighs only half as much, said Greg Smith, general manager of Anaheim Stadium.

"The thing about video boards is that 15 years ago they didn't exist and now you can't live without them," Smith said. "It enhances the entertainment opportunities we have with fans. They've come a long way."

The board features the newest technology from Sony, said Jumbotron spokesman Ted Dickson, including improved resolution and contrast, which will be particularly noticeable in the daylight. Measuring 30 feet high by 40 feet wide, it is the second-largest video board in North America--behind only the one in the Toronto Skydome.

The key to its improved technology is its ability to combine hundreds of thousands of individual blue, red and green lights to produce near natural color reproduction, according to Sony. The new Jumbotron will produce an image that is 56% brighter, with twice the resolution and three times the contrast of the old Jumbotron.

"It is dazzling," Dickson said. "It's going to look as good, if not better, than what you see at home, even in the direct sunlight."

The screen is used primarily for replays and animation. Unlike the old Jumbotron, the new one does without the "Little A" motif that adorned the top of the video screen.

Workers, who began installing the new board between games in May, have been working around-the-clock for the last eight days and will finish the job in time for tonight's game.

"We have compressed into three months what I consider to be a six- to seven-month job," said Ted Rebelowski), project manager. "That Jumbotron will be up and running (tonight) thanks to a lot of teamwork."

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Ironically, it could be one of the last Angels' home games for awhile if, as threatened, major league baseball players walk out next Friday.

The new Jumbotron will also be usable for football, although how long it will be showing videos of the Los Angeles Rams is anybody's guess.

The Rams exercised a 15-month escape clause in their stadium contract in May and are being courted by several cities, including Baltimore and St. Louis.

Still, the giant screen, which is in left-center field, will be ready when the Rams hold their home opener Aug. 13.

Both the old and new Jumbotrons are video-display screens, not traditional scoreboards that post the line score or keep track of other ballgames around the country. The Big A already has those.

The old 17-ton Jumbotron did some $10 million in damage when it fell during the pre-dawn earthquake, putting out of commission about 1,000 seats in the stadium's upper deck in left field. Hundreds could have been killed if an event had been taking place during the quake, officials said.

Sony is lending the city $3.3 million to pay for the board, with the city yet to finalize how it will repay the loan. Money could come from insurance claims on the original Jumbotron's accident, federal earthquake funds or lawsuits.

Officials were reluctant Thursday to discuss details of the seismic improvements in the new board because the city is considering suing the installers of the old board or others.

"The original Jumbotron was not up to code," Rebelowski said. "This one is up to the latest seismic codes. We're confident of the structural integrity of the design."

One major difference in the two designs is that the new Jumbotron will have its weight equally distributed among five columns instead of being supported by a single column as the old one was, Rebelowski said.

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Since the opening of baseball season, the ballpark had been making do with a temporary video board, which was installed in the lower deck in left field. Because of the earthquake damage and the temporary video board, the seating capacity was reduced from 64,500 to about 60,000. All the "lost" seats will be back in action next week.

The final frenetic activity to get the Jumbotron working was evident to fans who attended the Angels' three-game series against the Seattle Mariners this week. No video was available and workers, who had removed the temporary screen, worked nonstop even during the ballgames, which was unprecedented.

"They just kept the noise down during the game," said Mike McKay, the stadium's video scoreboard manager.

"It's going to be great," McKay said of the new Jumbotron. "It's going to look so good. We've really benefited from the six years of technology" since the original Jumbotron was installed in 1988.

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