New video board at Chapman Field Stadium.
There’s a lot going for the Cumberland Valley School District (CVSD) in Pennsylvania, which is centrally located to New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. There are thirteen total schools in the district, with close to 10,500 students enrolled. Meanwhile a major influx of people is moving into the area thanks to recent Amazon and Target warehouse openings.
Last year, the CVSD decided to improve their community visibility even more.
For nearly twenty-five years, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) had hosted its high school state championship competitions for football, field hockey, and soccer at Hersheypark Stadium. And although Hershey is a big name in the area (with a factory and amusement park), its stadium namesake surprisingly did not have a digital scoreboard of any kind.
This fact, in addition to concerns about costs and venue availability, led the PIAA to put out a Request for Proposal searching for a new host to these games. The Altoona School District and Penn State University made bids.
However Mike Willis, director of Business & Support Services at CVSD, felt his school system would have a greater chance of winning the bid if some important upgrades were made to their athletic facilities—upgrades that would not only enhance the game day experience but also impress the selection committee and have a lasting positive impact on the students and community. Plans were put into motion to redo their athletic venues (for example, installing a new track at one of them).
This upgrade would also touch on digital signage. CVSD officials had been very unhappy with a small malfunctioning digital video board installed at one of their stadiums nearly twenty years ago. The outdated model only did still pictures (that is, when it was working at all).
So, in addition to securing crucial facility upgrades, Willis was tasked to procure cutting-edge video scoreboards for the football stadium and turf field.
Strickler Signs installs a new video board.
Strickler Signs, a full-service, nationally known sign company in nearby New Oxford, Pennsylvania, has worked with the CVSD for years on multiple signs. They are also a long-time Watchfire partner and spoke to Willis about his upgrade investigation.
Strickler Signs Sales Representative Ray Wenger showed Willis other places they had successfully installed Watchfire digital scoreboards. “We worked within their budget and what their expectations and timelines were,” says Wenger.
Wenger says that, when it comes to digital signage, education institutions have different needs than those in the retail realm. “They don’t need a lot of bells and whistles,” he says. “The institution revolves around education and community messages, so you have to structure these design and proposals as to what makes the most sense for them and get them their biggest bang for the buck.”
The school district chose two large video boards, with a 10mm 18-by-32-foot located at Chapman Field Stadium (which hosts PIAA football and field hockey championships) and a 10mm 14-by-24-foot currently being installed at Eagleview Field (which hosts soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse). Although Wenger says 16mm clarity would have been adequate, the 10mm makes the visual display so much more dynamic!
Strickler Signs says the challenges of permitting within local codes always comes up with these types of large video displays. “I can’t speak for every township, city, or jurisdiction, but scoreboards and sports video boards don’t fall under zoning permits classifications. Instead they’re subject to building permits and inspections,” says Wenger, adding that another challenge is that some schools are zoned in residential or other non-commercial districts, which normally don’t allow these size or types of signs.
Going from a malfunctioning, small-sized, static scoreboard to a cutting-edge, large video board has made a world of difference. “It was like going from a thirty-two-inch television to an eighty-five-inch television,” says Willis.
The new video boards helped CVSD secure the PIAA state championships.
This strategic move paid off when CVSD was awarded the prestigious opportunity to host the PIAA state championships for football, field hockey, volleyball, and soccer through 2025. The digital video boards debuted in action during state championships last December.
From the moment student-athletes step onto the field, the Watchfire video boards provide a collegiate-level game experience, showcasing player photos, stats, and video highlights that electrify the crowd. The displays also play live-action footage and full instant replay capabilities and engage the audience with interactive prompts, ensuring an exciting atmosphere throughout the games.
“Smaller schools are gravitating toward video boards because of the experiences that they create,” says Wenger. “High school football is a big deal here and across the country, and because video board technology is becoming better and more cost-effective, they’re attracted to bringing that collegiate experience to the high school level.”
While the initial goal was to elevate the game day experience, CVSD officials soon realized they could utilize their new displays for so much more.
For example, they use the 10mm Watchfire video board at Chapman Field Stadium to broadcast performances during their annual eight- to ten-band competition called “Echoes in the Valley.”
And this past spring, the football stadium hosted an event tailored for their special needs students. These students were paired with a high school senior as their “buddy” as they participated in events ranging from track to bocci ball to ring toss. The video boards were used to make announcements, show inspirational videos, or replay action from events. “The parents and the kids enjoyed seeing themselves on the board,” says Willis. “It was great!”
New marquee signage on the CVSD campuses.
CVSD has also created a video club for students, under the watchful guidance of a teacher/advisor and a former TV news producer, to produce content that can be aired on the displays. Opportunities range from filming and reporting from the fields to behind-the-scenes production and content creation for broadcast. “We’re now moving that from a TV studio to more on-site reporting,” says Willis.
The digital signage upgrade experience doesn’t just end there. A total of seven freestanding Watchfire digital marquee signs can be found at each of the CVSD school campuses. The colorful, informative marquees announce events, post job openings, and/or present interesting facts.
Due to the massive amounts of kids coming onto the campuses every day, the digital marquee signs have proven a very effective communication tool. “Even parents passing by on the highway are able to see and read them,” says Willis.
Willis says that the CVSD avoids using taxpayer funds to pay for these displays, instead electing to secure them through independent donations. “We have a 2,500-seat domed stadium with a gondola in the middle,” he says, “and we hope to work with Strickler Signs to make that our next Watchfire digital video board project.”
The new marquee signs marquees announce events, post job openings, and/or present interesting facts.