- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 28—MANKATO — Like a homeowner struggling over whether to buy the latest high definition flat-screen TV or to try to squeeze a couple more years out of the old Sony Trinitron, the Mankato City Council debated Monday night a proposed $590,000 upgrade of the scoreboards in its civic center.

The building’s primary tenant, the Minnesota State University men’s hockey team, is requesting the city install a four-sided state-of-the-art scoreboard to hang over center ice — complete with high quality video screens for replays, advertising and other programming. The current boards, mounted on the north and south walls of the arena, are bare-bones affairs — nearly as old as the 20-year-old civic center — with a small video screen on one that is of such poor quality that hockey fans squint to decipher the images being shown.

The problem is that state-of-the-art scoreboards don’t come cheap, and the city is already facing a very tight budget in its $32 million civic center renovation and expansion.

Rather than include the scoreboard in the overall renovation budget, the proposed funding would come from the civic center’s equipment replacement fund plus advertising revenues generated by the new board, according to a memorandum by city staff to the council.

MSU “is a tier-one hockey program” and “center-hung scoreboards are the norm for tier-one schools,” the memo stated. “The (current) electronic scoreboard is woefully out of date and literally on its last leg. It has served us well, but it is time to upgrade.”

Essentially, the council was told that buying a $640,000 center-hung scoreboard now is cheaper than the current plan to spending $400,000 on a pair of traditional wall-hung scoreboards in 2017.

The reason is that purchasing the high-quality four-sided scoreboard above center-ice this summer will allow the city’s contractor on the civic center upgrade and expansion, Mortenson Construction, to get a volume discount of $50,000. Mortenson will get the discount by combining the scoreboard purchase with purchases made for other Minnesota projects the company is working on — a Target Center renovation and the new Vikings stadium, both in Minneapolis.

That discount, which apparently isn’t available for the wall-mounted scoreboards, brings the price down to $590,000. And by installing the scoreboard immediately, the arena will earn an estimated $160,000 in advertising revenue during the next two hockey seasons — bringing the effective price to $430,000, according to Civic Center Executive Director Burt Lyman.

When pressed, Lyman said he actually thinks the boost in advertising will be much higher and that his estimate is conservative.

“It’s going to be the sought-after place to put you’re advertisements,” he said. “… You’re going to walk in there and say ‘Wow!’ and that’s what an organization like Budweiser and Pepsi wants (in advertising space).”

Sticking with the original plan of waiting until 2017 to buy two up-to-date wall-hung scoreboards on the north and south ends of the arena would actually cost more — $440,000, according to the memo to the council. The memo’s math involves adding $40,000 to the $400,000 cost of the wall-mounted scoreboards to reflect the estimated $40,000 in advertising revenue that they would generate if they were in place now instead of two years from now.

While none of the seven members of the council actively opposed the center-ice scoreboard, questions by Council President Christopher Frederick and Karen Foreman prompted a unanimous vote to delay a decision for one week.

“Sensing some questions and some hesitation, it’s probably best we do this on the 3rd,” Mayor Eric Anderson said of the Aug. 3 council workshop, which will now be followed by a special meeting to vote on the scoreboard and other proposed added expenses to the civic center project — mostly quality upgrades in the materials planned for the MSU locker rooms and other team facilities being added to the civic center.

Frederick asked that civic center staff and MSU officials check with scoreboard manufacturer Daktronics to see if the less-costly video screen resolution of the proposed civic center scoreboard would have to be higher to avoid making the scoreboard immediately obsolete. He also wondered if center-hung scoreboards come in configurations to match the three-sided nature of the civic center (there’s no seating on the north side of the arena).

Finally, Frederick wanted to know if the Blue Line Club — made up of community boosters of MSU hockey — would be willing to contribute.

“The Blue Line Club has been approached … about being a potential partner in this,” MSU Athletic Director Kevin Buisman told the council.

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(c)2015 The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.)

Visit The Free Press (Mankato, Minn.) at www.mankatofreepress.com

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