University officials: Scoreboard lights not a problem

Residents near TCF Bank Stadium have concerns about the scoreboard’s cost and light pollution.

LAURA WALLENTA

Nancy Kosciolek first took notice of the lighting coming from the TCF Bank Stadium scoreboard one night last fall while walking her dog. A resident of Prospect Park, Kosciolek noticed the illuminated stadium on multiple nights throughout the fall when there werenâÄôt football games. During the fall semester, there were 16 events in which the scoreboard was operated, University officials said. Despite concerns from nearby residents over cost and light pollution, Associate Athletics Director Phil Esten said the scoreboard is the lowest expense when lighting the stadium, due to the efficiency of the scoreboardâÄôs light-emitting diode (LED) technology. The cost of running the main video scoreboard is $10 per hour, Esten said, and besides Gophers football games it only operates when clients or sponsors pay to hold events inside the stadium. Those sponsors pay for scoreboard usage. The scoreboard does not run advertisements during events but rather shows a companyâÄôs slideshow photos or messages. âÄúItâÄôs not about cost âÄî we cover that with client usage at events,âÄù Esten said. âÄúThe minimum charge is $95 for an event, which more than covers the cost and operation of the scoreboard.âÄù Running the scoreboard with LED lights consumes less energy than regular lightbulbs, Esten said. LED uses about one-third of the energy as the Cathode Ray Tube technology used in video scoreboards before LED was introduced 10 years ago. In addition to sponsorship events, both intramural sports and the marching band utilize the stadium. However, neither organization requires scoreboard operation. Instead, they use the field lights that run on one-third the power used to operate for a game day, which Esten said cost approximately $16 per hour to run. Separate from the scoreboard, there is an exterior marquee attached to the side that projects information to the outside community that runs 24 hours a day, costing only $10. The purpose is to advertise Gophers athletic events as well as the temperature and local time. Despite the heavy usage, itâÄôs not likely the lights will go out any time soon. âÄúThe average lifetime of an LED light is 100,000 hours, and at that point they are only half as bright,âÄù said Mark Steinkamp, marketing and public relations manager for Daktronics, the company that installed the video scoreboard. LED lights arenâÄôt the only energy-efficient element of the stadium. TCF Bank Stadium became the countryâÄôs first LEED-certified collegiate football facility, based on a number of design and construction features that allowed it to be designated as a green building. TCF Bank Stadium is part of the UniversityâÄôs âÄúIt All Adds UpâÄù campaign, which aims to save $2.25 million by June 30 by reducing energy consumption on campus. The campaign is comprised of a group of engineers in the Energy Management division of University Facilities Management who reviewed construction and design plans and offered recommendations on how to operate in a more energy-efficient manner. Jim Green, assistant director of the Energy Management unit, said that as of Jan. 13 the campaign had nearly reached the $2 million mark in savings. As for the scoreboard lights, Esten anticipates that events will still be held on a regular basis throughout the spring semester. Intramurals held in the stadium will resume once all the snow has melted.