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impact of video screen on Wrigley Field

A lot has happened through the first three games at Wrigley in 2015. I attended the fourth home (April 14) game to take it all in and certainly the video board is the biggest story of them all.

Here’s a quick summary leading into the fourth home game:

  • new, giant video board in left field
  • right field bleachers are just steel girders as is right field scoreboard (The Ernie Banks tarps have been taken down)
  • left field bleachers are raw wood and concrete
  • the Cubs in first place and just won two dramatic games in a row
  • porta-potties scattered throughout the ballpark

Where to start? Well, that giant video board simply demands itself to be first topic of any conversation. Obviously, it
s big and bright. How it relates to everything else in the park demonstrates just how much attention it garners.

As of now, there’s four levels of visual hierarchy at the yard. And it may actually be only three.

1. playing field
2. left field video board
3. surrounding people
4. center field scoreboard

As with any baseball stadium, the action on the field will always remain the clear focal point regardless of surrounding distractions. The field is big and in the middle of the stadium. Every seat is facing the field (for the most part). The field is flooded with light during night games. The crowd as a whole reacts continuously to on-field events guiding straying eyes back to the game.

3. SURROUNDING PEOPLE (formerly #2)
The playing field and the surrounding people are intertwined in that everyone is united together in the event of going to a baseball game whether one watches the game itself or the people at the game.

Humanity abounds by the sheer volume of the game’s attendance. Squeeze 100 people in a room and there’s always something interesting to observe even if everyone is just sitting around. Do that with 30,000 people and a constant flow of new faces walking about with varying levels of alcohol consumption and you have a giant Petri dish of people doing what they do. There’s micro-levels within this group that’s best left for another discussion.

Two, three, four years from now I expect surrounding people to return to second place bumping left field video board to third. As with anything new that disrupts previous experiences, time is need for the disruptive agent to settle into our norm. And wow, that video board is a change to the norm.

Wrigley Field historically has been cherished for its presentation of the purity of the game with minimal advertising and minimal distractions all packed snugly into a neighborhood yard. There’s no speed pitch machines for the kids on the concourse; only the best of the best ball players in the world doing what they do best.

However times change and it seems people aren’t happy with having glow screens only at home, work, and in their pocket, but now it’s needed in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. And how the video board glows. Just to gauge how much light it emits, try taking a properly exposed photo of the video board at a night game. Everything else in the photo gets really dark, even the playing field which is flooded with light. When the playing field is dark in a photo, you know you have a bright video board.

Also, we can’t discount that fact that it’s a VIDEO board with moving graphics and video clips which more easily calls the eyes’ attention than still imagery.

It’s also not nestled into the design of the park like other fully-conceived stadiums. It’s just plunked on the edge of the bleachers strategically placed not with viewing fan’s experience in mind, but rather to stick a thumb in they eye of specific, feisty rooftop owners.

Outside of the outfield grass and the infield diamond it is most certainly the largest surface area in the park. Standing upright at a 90 degree angle facing the field it mimics the center field scoreboard’s stance. But the video board completely dwarfs the center field scoreboard.

The biggest casualty in all this is the centerfield scoreboard. For the longest time people wanted it to do more, more, more. I
ll concur that seeing the scores of a dozen other games is low on my priority list of things to know when watching an active game of my favorite team unfold in front of my eyes. I get it.

But that repetition in grid form has a certain organizational beauty allowing NITE GAME to be creatively strewn on a diagonal during the day. And during night games at Wrigley this grid system allows for simple variances in the presentation of numbers slowly moving through the night.

The scoreboard was great for those small pockets that showed the game’s score, ball/strike count, and outs. All of which are basic, core elements of the game that a fan wants to track constantly. Having the ball/strikes/outs dead center of the scoreboard is brilliant. It’s a clean and well-presented, uncrowded view. The game’s score while not as efficiently accessible is still manageable in the lower left/leftish corner of the board.

But it’s incredibly jarring watching the live action, then trying to make a quick head turn to the scoreboard to check the count only to have this massive glow screen assault your eyes ability to adjust to light. Going from bright playing field to less lit scoreboard and quickly back to playing field was one thing. But now the process is: bright playing field, super bright glow screen, lowly lit scoreboard, super bright glow screen, bright playing field.

It’s simply too much to handle dozens of times in a 3 hour period. I found myself not wanting to look at the scoreboard any more, which is simply awful. And that leads to the centerfield scoreboard no longer having any considerable level of visual hierarchy in the complete game experience. The video board simply steals away all that attention. Time will be the judge of that once the left field video board becomes part of the Wrigley Field norm.


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