U.S. Bank Stadium construction crews have completed their work on the venue’s high-definition video and ribbon boards over the last couple weeks, checking off another box in preparing the stadium to host its first Minnesota Vikings games in the fall.
Vikings Vice President of Corporate and Technology Partnerships John Penhollow said the new equipment is exciting because it can support in-game entertainment programs and interactive features that push the envelope in creating an immersive fan experience.
“It’s everything from sound quality to visual clarity, and regardless of what the theme of the feature is, all of those will become more valuable to our partners, and we believe it will resonate with our fans,” Penhollow said.
The new system was manufactured by Daktronics, a South Dakota-based company known for building some of the world’s largest digital video displays now used in other sporting venues, in Times Square, and at Olympic sites.
Daktronics made the Vikings’ video boards at a plant in Redwood, Minn., a town about 115 miles southwest of Minneapolis. U.S Bank Stadium is the only NFL venue to have its video system constructed in its home state.
The company began planning the project months in advance, Daktronics spokesman Justin Ochsner said.
“We start early with the customers,” he said, explaining that such an expansive timeline was necessary to ensure the system could be successfully integrated with the rest of the stadium during installation.
Daktronics President, CEO and Chairman of the Board Reece Kurtenbach compared the displays to a painter’s palate and likened the video production team to artists that make it come to life.
“We give them the canvas and key control elements so that it’s easy and intuitive on how to drive the show,” Kurtenbach said.
That canvas consists of 25,000 total square feet of 13HD LED video boards and ribbon displays, the most in any NFL stadium.
The main board alone is more than 8,100 square feet, which makes it the league’s 10th largest.
The 13HD designation describes the system’s pixel size, or how many millimeters are occupied by a unit of one red, one green, and one blue LED. Those units are like the cells that work together to relay sharp stats, crisp scores, and pictures that pop.
Eight other NFL teams use that technology in their video boards, but Levi’s Stadium in San Francisco is the only other venue using it for ribbon displays.
“They’re vibrant,” Kurtenbach said. “The purples, the golds, they look like they do on the field, so that’s really the advantage of the technologies that are going in today.”
The Vikings chose not to mount the scoreboards on the ceiling like the Dallas Cowboys did in AT&T Stadium. Instead, the scoreboards sit behind the end zones, which allows more natural light to stream through the roof panels.
Ochsner said the company’s project managers coordinated with U.S. Bank Stadium architects to create an environment where fans can easily view the boards’ content with minimal effort.
“The Vikings were specifically looking for an intimate feeling within the facility,” Ochsner said, so the video boards are visually accessible from every seat in the venue.
Penhollow said the boards sit about 10 feet above the main concourse, which is lower than many other NFL video boards.
“Regardless of what seat you’re in, you’ll have the chance to look slightly to the left, slightly to the right or straight ahead and you’re going to get a clear visual of the game action from a live perspective and replay,” Penhollow said.
“Our intent was to make these things as large as we could, but appropriately place them as low as possible,” he said. “We think what we came up with is perfect for this venue.”
Ochsner said Daktronics also won the next big NFL video board contract for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. That project will begin picking up steam over the next six months in preparation for the stadium’s 2017 opening.
Andrew Heiser is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota.