To the list of technological wonders that will greet Baltimore Orioles fans next season at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Maryland Stadium Authority just added one more: a brighter, clearer video scoreboard.
Yesterday, the Board of Public Works approved a stadium authority plan to outfit the main scoreboard with a $2.6 million Sony Jumbotron, the same model that has drawn oohs and aahs in new ballparks in Chicago and Toronto.
Charles Steinberg, Orioles director of public affairs and the team executive in charge of video policy, said yesterday that the Jumbotron would offer fans pictures that are "significantly superior" to those they watched on the 7-year-old Diamondvision at Memorial Stadium.
"We've always had to keep the look of the [Diamondvision] board very, very simple because the clarity didn't let us do anything more complex," Steinberg said. "Now we've basically been handed an opportunity to explore all the good things we can do."
Until recently, Jumbotron hadn't been in the picture for the new stadium. Initial plans called for the Memorial Stadium video board to be taken apart and shipped in a fleet of trucks to the downtown ballpark, where the pieces would be reassembled and slipped into the main scoreboard.
But stadium authority officials said they decided on a new video system because they were worried about the mounting costs of repairing the old one and the possibility that the fragile electronics that operate the board might not survive the move downtown.
Add to that the poor picture quality of Diamondvision during day games and the benefits of leaving Diamondvision where it is while Baltimore pursues an NFL expansion franchise, and the use of Jumbotron in the new stadium was not a difficult call, according to stadium authority chairman Herbert J. Belgrad.
"Baltimore is going to be the focal point of a national TV audience several times in the next few years, including Opening Day, which is a day game. For that, the current Diamondvision is totally inadequate," Belgrad said.
The stadium authority plans to lease Jumbotron. It will make semi-annual payments of $340,000 for seven years, when it can buy the video screen. However, Belgrad said the stadium authority will defer its rental payments until 1995 while it makes the final three years of payments on Diamondvision. Those payments, $440,000 a year payable in two installments, have been assumed until now by the city, which had a similar leasing agreement with the manufacturer of the old video screen.
Those bills have been paid mostly with advertising revenue generated by the huge TV screens, revenue that will drop precipitously at Memorial Stadium next season. But Belgrad cited an NFL exhibition game scheduled for the old stadium next August as an example of one of the events that might help the stadium authority pay its video screen bills.
"In the event we do manage Memorial Stadium, we would anticipate events being held there and proceeds from those events being applied to covering our operating costs," he said.
Although plans are not completed, the Jumbotron will be roughly the size of its Memorial Stadium predecessor. The dimensions of Diamondvision, manufactured by Mitsubishi, are 25 feet, 7 inches by 33-3. Of the 26 major-league ballparks, all but five were equipped with video-replay boards last season, according to the Orioles media guide.