Mercedes-Benz Stadium officials are proud to claim the largest video board in sports, but their boss acknowledges he worried it might be too large.
“That was a silent concern that I had,” Arthur Blank, owner of the Falcons and Atlanta United, said. “I saw it going up in the building, the skeleton of it, and I said to myself, not out loud, not publicly, ‘This is really big.’ But when it was in full motion and completely activated … I thought the proportions were perfect.”
The oval-shaped video board, which rings the opening below the retractable roof, is sure to command attention when the stadium debuts with a Falcons exhibition game Saturday night.
Called the “halo board” by everyone involved in the project, the 360-degree screen is 58 feet tall and 1,075 feet in circumference, totaling 62,350 square feet of light-emitting diodes. If unwound and stood up on end, it would be taller than the Bank of America tower, Atlanta’s tallest building.
The board was manufactured by Daktronics at its headquarters in Brookings, S.D., shipped to Atlanta in 35 truck loads and assembled from 600 pieces. The finished product contains more than 37 million LEDs. And yes, it is by far the largest video board inside a sports stadium in the world, according to Daktronics, a global leader in the industry.
Sports fans are accustomed to video boards mounted at the ends of stadiums or hung from the center of arenas. But Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s board surrounds the interior of the building, forming an oval high above the playing field and providing displays in all directions.
“It will be a completely different perspective that fans obviously have never seen before,” Daktronics senior project manager Tyler Jones said. “It’ll be interesting for the first few games to see fans sitting in their seats looking all around them, trying to get all the different vantage points you can have of the halo board. I think they will spend a good amount of time just figuring out where they want to look.”
That was his experience, too, he said, on a visit to the stadium last week.
“I was mesmerized, standing on the field and spinning around,” Jones said. “It’s hard to walk in there and not just stare at it. It’s crazy.”
There are a few larger video screens in the world, albeit none inside a sports venue. There’s a slightly larger one — about 64,000 square feet -- outside an arena in Mexico City.
The Falcons’ screen is about three times as large as the previous largest single display board in the NFL, according to Daktronics. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ EverBank Field claimed the previous largest: a 21,720-square-foot screen (362 feet wide by 60 feet high) behind each end zone.
A first-of-its-kind video board was part of the plan from the earliest renderings of the new Falcons stadium, initially presented by lead architect Bill Johnson when his firm competed for the design job. The thinking was that by being built into the roof structure, the screen wouldn’t block the view to the sky in an open-roof configuration.
“We all loved it (from the start),” Blank said, “but we were concerned that in certain cases these scoreboards can be so overpowering that they actually take away from the field, take away from the game.”
“We were having a tough time understanding what it would look like for fans,” Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said. “Would it overwhelm them? Would it be too far away? All those things.”
Before proceeding, Blank, McKay and others went through a mock-up exercise in the Georgia Dome, where canvases of different sizes were hung to simulate the proposed board.
“Then we moved around the whole stadium, sitting in different seats, to look at it,” McKay said. “Not sure it was the most scientific study, but it gave us a comfort level about how spectacular we thought the halo board could be.”
The middle size of the canvases was selected, Johnson recalled. The geometry of the screen evolved.
“At first,” McKay said, “it was eight flat pieces that were put together so it looked almost like an octagon.”
“As I continued to look at it and we did renderings of it,” Johnson said, “it always looked to me like it was eight scoreboards just laced together.
“I didn’t want eight scoreboards,” the architect continued. “I wanted one big idea. That is when we made it an oval, and I am so glad we did that. I think you’re going to see some really extraordinary video content on it because of the way it is one continuous surface.”
The content will be a combination of game action, instant replays, scores, statistics, graphics, animations, advertising, other game information, you name it. A typical configuration will be to divide the display into four quadrants of video, with other content between them. But stadium officials vow to be adventurous with the board’s capabilities.
“We’re not locked into anything,” chief technology officer Jared Miller said. “One of the things I love is using the entire board in 360-degree video. No one else can do that. You won’t see the full 360 (from a given seat), but you’ll get the sense of it.”
“When play stops and people look at the board and see some Mercedes-Benz, it’s going to be as entertaining, we hope, as the game itself,” Slaven said.
Jones, of Daktronics, thinks the board could be a game-changer for stadiums.
“A lot of the sports world is about being the biggest and the best at the time of your project, so people are going to try to figure out a way to top it,” Jones said. “I think it’ll be challenging to get there, though. It has definitely set a new bar for what stadiums of the future are going to have to try to compete with.”
ALL ABOUT MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM
Look for stories about various aspects of Mercedes-Benz Stadium all week in the AJC, including these:
Yesterday: The retractable roof (read now on MyAJC.com)
Today: The “halo” video board
Thursday: Social spaces
Saturday: A magnet for marquee events