Mega screens popular in high school football stadiums

HOUSTON – Fans are keeping score and watching instant replays on mega screens in Houston, Katy, Cy-Fair and across Texas.

The Houston Independent School District paid a total $530,838 for two new scoreboards put up this year at Butler and Barnett Stadiums. An HISD spokesman said the money to pay for the boards came from the HISD Athletic Department fund balance, which is generated from concession and ticket sales, not tax dollars. The HISD school board approved the purchase.

At Texas' newest and largest high school stadium in Allen, a Dallas suburb, a custom scoreboard towers 75 feet above a new $60 million football stadium with enough room to seat 18,000 fans. The high-resolution HD screen is 38 feet wide by 23 feet tall, according to Jeff Chaney with the Allen Independent School District athletic department.

Allen claims the largest scoreboard, but the $750,000 mega screen in Carthage, near Longview in east Texas, is bigger at 44 feet wide and 26 feet tall.

Critics said these high price stadiums and scoreboards are like punting away educational dollars, but other educators call it a touchdown.

"It brings out great community pride. I know some people may question the amount of money spent, but it's going to be here for a long time and when they walk through the gates they are real proud of this facility and rightly so," said Ed Warken, Cy-Fair ISD athletic director.

The Berry Center in Cy-Fair is the home field to 10 high schools. The stadium scoreboard is a hit, according to the athletic director who said the whole facility makes athletes jump a little higher and try a little harder.

"You see kids up there looking at themselves on the scoreboard and coaches are critiquing their plays, so it is fun. It is a great experience and to fund the board you try to get advertisement to pay for it so it is not a burden on the taxpayer," said Warken.

Katy ISD also funds their mega screen scoreboard at Rhodes stadium with advertising dollars. A district official said it will take a total of five years to pay for the board.

Students operate the giant scoreboard and cameras at Rhodes Stadium as part of a program called "LAMBS," or Live Action Media Broadcast System.

"It is really a blast to do," said senior Christina Ammell. "This is a great thing for the district to be doing especially because it is giving us a learning opportunity in the studios and in the fields in football games."

Katy educators hope what students are learning on and off the field will help train them for the next step in life.

"All of these are outdoor classrooms as well as football stadiums," said Debbie Decker, Katy ISD athletic director.