If you have attended a pro soccer game at the National Sports Center the past several years, you may have heard this announcement coming from the public address system: “Can you please move the golf cart in the Southeast end of the stadium? It’s blocking the view of the scoreboard.”
It seems the large portable digital scoreboard at the NSC stadium has been broken for a few years. If you looked south of the bleachers and in the small fenced-in area you could see it stowed away and poking up above the fence. The last several years, a portable scoreboard was brought in for games. The problem was it was so small it was often hard to see. I mean it was really small, as in portable. It had wheels with a hitch and could have been pulled along easily with a 4-cylinder compact car and not changed the mileage. Small as in it didn’t stand any higher than four feet and anyone walking in front of it blocked its view from the main stands. In fact it had become a standing joke to many former Thunder supporters.
Well, not anymore. When you walk into the National Sports Center Stadium on Saturday night, the new NSC scoreboard planted firmly in the ground at the Southeast end of the stadium will surely grab your attention. Soccer fans will see a brand new permanent 12′ x 24′ scoreboard with both modern and old fashioned designs.
It’s actually a few feet off the ground and it’s big — so if some 8-year old is standing in front of the scoreboard he can’t hide it!
When first viewing the new scoreboard two things are sure to strike you: A) There are no digital displays on the board. B) The giant analog clock in the center of the structure. Even though this new scoreboard went from design to reality in less than 2 months, it has its roots in an event that happened 4 years ago.
Left to right: Neal Logan, Andy Wattenhoffer and Bruce McGuire stand on the terrace at FC St. Pauli Stadium, Millerntor in 2006.
Neal Logan, Bruce McGuire and Andy Wattenhofer, all soccer fans from the Twin Cities, were together in Germany for World Cup 2006. The US had been eliminated and the three friends had another week before they needed to fly back to the US. The threesome headed to Hamburg to sightsee and McGuire suggested going past Millerntor-Stadion, the stadium in which FC St. Pauli played. McGuire was a big fan of St. Pauli and the teams’ followers who are known to be quite fervent in their support. McGuire says the stadium is actually in the red-light district of Hamburg and is a “pretty old stadium.”
“We went to Fan Fest,” said McGuire. “Which was held in every major city in Germany. There was tons of food and drinks and giant screens showing all the World Cup games. As it turns out, the Fan Fest in Hamburg was right next to Millerntor.”
McGuire said because it was summer and the team wasn’t playing, he knew the stadium would be closed, but they decided to check it out anyway. After touring a very unique fan shop, they found out the stadium even had its own built in pub. “While we were in the pub a guy approached us and said he could tell we were Americans from our accents,” said McGuire. “He was a former player and asked if we would like to see the inside of the stadium. Of course we were all over that!”
The FC St.Pauli scoreboard which has since been replaced with an all digital scoreboard. Note the operator posted in the lower right corner who would manually change the score.
McGuire said they were able to walk around the stadium, which still had terracing on one end and was old and crumbling. “Above the terrace was a beautiful old scoreboard,” continued McGuire. “It had an old traditional clock face and big large rectangles with numbers on them to post the score. Everything was manual. I don’t think three guys could have been more excited to see a traditional old place like that. It was fantastic!”
“We’ve been talking about it ever since,” said McGuire. “We’ve joked that if we ever owned a club we would build that scoreboard because it’s such an old fashioned hands-on sort of thing. It also reminds us of old-fashioned baseball in America. Why do we need the big fancy digital scoreboards just to tell us the time and score?”
Neal Logan is a project manager at an architectural firm. Logan says he resurrected the St. Pauli scoreboard idea after the NSC announced it would create a new team to play at the National Sports Center Stadium. He knew the team would be needing a scoreboard so he originally brought the idea up after the stakeholders meetings the NSC held in mid-January. Logan, who is also a long-time soccer and bandy player as well as a referee who has traveled as far as Russia to officiate bandy tournaments, said he had several suggestions for the NSC. Logan is also the unofficial barbecue king of the Dark Cloud supporters group. He says he presented the idea of a very large and permanent grill placed in front of the exhibition field where any tailgater could come and grill before the game. Logan says the NSC ran with the idea and a huge grill is now in place ready for the season opener this Saturday.
NSC Facility Operations Manager Brandon Radeke and his crew work on the new scoreboard
But the bigger idea of the scoreboard was presented to Minnesota Amateur Sports Commission Executive Director Paul Erickson via Tim Hayes, another former Thunder supporter who has been very supportive of the new NSC Stars pro soccer team. Hayes showed Erickson a few sketches Logan had come up with. Logan says he was put in touch with NSC Facility Operations Manager Brandon Radeke. On March 10th Logan, met with Radeke and a few other NSC employees along with Tim Hayes, Jim Crist and Joe Leyba who made up this ad hoc committee to oversee the building of the scoreboard. Logan said that the NSC had also come up with their own design mocked up by NSC marketing and design specialist Angie Bertrand. “The NSC liked the idea and told us they were able to construct it with their own staff,” said Logan.
Logan got to work looking at clock companies and eventually settled on Lumichron who create specialized clocks for buildings and towers. The committee decided on a model called the Chatwell. The clock face picked out will be 4 feet in diameter and the committee was able to custom design the face. “We kept refining the design with supporters who have design experience,” said Logan. “We simplified it with the 5 minute tick marks with numerals at 15, 30 and 45.” Logan said that another Dark Cloud supporter, Kevin Joseph who is a graphic designer and a sports logo critic helped him to design the fonts for the numbers on the clock. “Kevin came up with an NFL font from the Bengals and then did some modification,” said Logan. “Then we used that font for all of the team names and numbers for the score.”
The clock, seen here still in its packing crate, arrived late last week.
Logan confirmed he has heard from the NSC that the design is so unique the team needed to get special permission from the United States Soccer Federation to go forward with the structure. He explained the scoreboard will have large logos for each team and all of the custom made logos and numbers will slide in with a system designed by Radeke and his staff. The clock will sit in the middle of the board.
Bertrand said there’s room on the scoreboard for advertisers although they had not secured any but were in negotiations. “Once sponsors are secured, they will go in the 6’ x 2’ areas above home and visitor plaques,” said Bertrand. “The frame of the scoreboard is steel. The main scoreboard graphic is the blue background and the words “National Sports Center” and will be one big adhesive graphic similar to vehicle graphic material. This big graphic is applied to metal sheeting which will be set securely into the steel frame.”
Bertrand said she expects the scoreboard to be finished as early as Wednesday but they were still waiting for the finished materials.
“The fact that they [NSC] are building this scoreboard with a traditional clock face, like on an old clock tower in a downtown, just blows my mind,” stated McGuire. “It’s unbelievable and I didn’t expect this at all. If the team never does anything else, I’m ecstatic about the clock.”
Mock up of what the new NSC scoreboard will look like after completion.