CHAMPAIGN — With the current Memorial Stadium scoreboard practically held together by "baling wire," the University of Illinois plans to replace it with a much larger, snazzier scoreboard complete with LED screen and new sound system.
The only hitch is it won't be installed this football season.
The pricetag for the new scoreboard, three "ribbon" or scrolling-type of scoreboards on the east and west sides of the upper deck and under the scoreboard, plus a smaller display for fans who can't see the big one, is $6.7 million. The money will come from the UI's Division of Intercollegiate Athletics and anticipated revenue from advertising and other activities, according to DIA spokesman Kent Brown.
The current scoreboard was installed in 2002, the year the Chicago Bears played in town while Soldier Field underwent its remodel. When Memorial Stadium was rehabbed, the scoreboard was relocated to the south end zone in 2008. Originally it was posted at the north end of the stadium.
"It is really on its last legs," said Brown, who described it as being held together by baling wire. It's undergoing repairs weekly, and specially trained staff will be on hand at all home football games this season in case something goes wrong.
"Those boards go through so much with the weather. And over 10 years, it takes a pounding. It's used not just for football games, but weddings, receptions, the marathon," he said.
The casing that houses the scoreboard is leaking and rusting, and just powering it on and off taxes the electronic components, said Heather Haberaecker, the UI's executive assistant vice president for business and finance.
"It was near the end of its useful life," she said.
The university issued a request for proposals for the project this spring and awarded the contract to Daktronics of South Dakota, according to Haberaecker. A UI Board of Trustee budget committee reviewed the project this week. The project now goes to the full board of trustees for approval at its meeting next Friday.
The project calls for the main scoreboard, three ribbon displays on the west and east balconies, and under the scoreboard. Another, smaller display measuring about 16 by 9 feet, is planned to be installed on the north wall of the southeast tower.
The new scoreboard will measure 125 feet, 9.8 inches wide and 54 feet, 3.7 inches tall, compared with the current scoreboard size of 48 feet by 68 feet. It will include the usual information such as game time, scores, downs, distance, yards-to-go, timeouts and more.
"It'll be one of the largest boards in the country when it's completed," Brown said.
The Fighting Illini aren't the only Big Ten team to upgrade scoreboards. Recently the Michigan State Spartans debuted a $10 million scoreboard and sound system and the Ohio State Buckeyes unveiled their own $7 million, 124-foot by 42-foot scoreboard this season. Both feature gigantic high-definition, LED screens and long, scrolling screens.
"It will really change the look of the stadium," Brown said.
The back of the current scoreboard is painted blue, but the new scoreboard could have some graphics on the back of it so people driving down Kirby Avenue could see some Illini images on it, according to Brown.
Demolition is anticipated to happen in December. Installation and final testing of the new board should be completed by July 15, 2013, according to the project timeline.