Oct. 13, 2010

By Brendan Corsones

There’s a new buzz inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center this year. If you’ve recently visited for a volleyball game this fall or will be attending a men or women’s basketball game, you’ll notice something new hanging from the Pavilion rafters.

What’s the source of this newfound enthusiasm that has fans raving? Well, it is not hard to miss. Conspicuously hanging from the center of the Purcell rafters is a massive, beautiful new video scoreboard that Irish fans will certainly appreciate.

Audiences at volleyball contests at Purcell Pavilion have certainly enjoyed a whole new atmosphere this season, while basketball fans will enjoy watching highlights through games during the season, thanks to the many options this scoreboard presents.

The idea for a video scoreboard dates back nearly as far as the idea for the Joyce Center renovations. Credit third-year director of athletics, Jack Swarbrick, however, for getting it all put together and for the scoreboard becoming a reality.

As described by Tom Blicher, general manager of the Joyce Center and Purcell Pavilion, the original idea was for flat video screens on each end of the court, but the idea evolved into the current central location. Not only was this easier for maintenance purposes, but it also puts the scoreboard front and center, where it is easier for fans to enjoy.

And enjoy it they do, as Blicher says, “the scoreboard is meant to promote and enhance the fans’ experience.” Judging by fans’ reactions this fall at volleyball games, the goal has been overwhelmingly met.

“It’s great, absolutely fabulous, I wasn’t sure how it would look but it came together beautifully,” commented one Saint Mary’s alumna who recently attended a volleyball game during a football weekend. Her husband, although a Stanford alum in town for the football game, admired its worth and remarked, ” it’s worth every penny they spent.”

For those worried that a new scoreboard would be used as a ploy to bring in corporate sponsorship dollars, Darin Ottaviani, sports marketing coordinator for the athletic department, says, “It’s great for our teams…we thank the Team Notre Dame sponsors at the beginning of the game, but it’s really a thank you gift to the fans”.

During previous seasons throughout volleyball games, it would difficult to fill the awkward pauses during timeouts or in between sets. Now, the new video scoreboard provides opportunities for fans to keep cheering during a lull in the action. New features such as trivia questions, short segments featuring fun facts about the players, and video replays, now make down time during the game time that cannot be missed.

One cannot speak enough about the power of video during sporting events. Just about every sports fan can vividly remember their brief brushes with fame if they were lucky enough to be featured on a stadium’s big board. Now Notre Dame can offer this experience to its next generation of fans. As one young fan notes, “I really want to be on the big screen, right where they show all of the players”.

“People are really amazed by the video”, Ottaviani says regarding feedback he has received, “very impressed by the quality of the video…it’s nice to add to what is already a great environment at Purcell.”

Mike Danch, associate athletics director for facilities, agrees that the scoreboard added a new element to the fan experience.

“We can engage our fans more, we now have the ability to convey different messages to fans, show replays, and give a better visual message. We can create an even greater energy with introductory videos in the all-LED lights, and we hope to introduce fans to the history of these programs through video. I really credit Jack Swarbrick for trying to improve the in-game experience for fans and generate more excitement for games,” says Danch.

Not only is the scoreboard winning over fans, but also it is gaining fans for Notre Dame teams. As one student recently remarked, “I came to check out the new scoreboard, but I really fell in love with volleyball. I definitely want to come to more games now. Also, I felt that learning about the players during the game made we want to watch them more. I’ll absolutely be back for more of these contests.”

What is truly refreshing about the scoreboard is that while massive, it is relatively simple in design and not cluttered with corporate logos and advertisements. Simply put, it is what one would hope a piece of very modern technology would look adapted to the Notre Dame tradition.

It proudly displays a large Irish Clover underneath without looking at all garish, maintaining a pleasing balance of aesthetics and modernity. One is of course aware of how advanced the video system is, but it blends perfectly into Notre Dame’s time-honored style. Just as one can appreciate how the antiquated façades of the new Duncan and Ryan Halls merge them beautifully with the older dorms on campus, the scoreboard just seems to belong.

As a couple from Park City, Utah remarked, “The new video board makes me feel like I’m at a Jazz game, it is absolutely gorgeous. I was surprised Notre Dame would approve something like this, but it is really just terrific”.

Perhaps what is most exciting about this new draw to the Purcell Pavilion is that it is truly in its infancy. Ottaviani says we may only be scratching the surface. “We really couldn’t go too far with it with volleyball. This first year is about taking it slow and feeling it out.” Danch comments that the scoreboard is “a work in progress” and notes that its first appearance at a volleyball game came only two days after the installation had been completed.

Blicher alludes slightly more to what the future may hold, saying, “for basketball we’re planning a live feed of the games, putting up stats live, and just learning all of the different capabilities we have and adding new features over time”.

A whole new environment and atmosphere has been created and awaits those fans attending a volleyball or basketball game at Purcell Pavilion this year, thanks in large part to the addition of the state-of-the-art scoreboard that ensures fans who fill the seats for Irish contests will learn to love the players and teams that they see on the big screen.