The interior bowl at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, will feature a 360-degree halo board from Daktronics.
The last thing the Atlanta Falcons wanted at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium was a monotone experience, one that blends with others around the NFL.
“Our goal is to provide an unparalleled fan experience, something completely different,” said Jared Miller, chief technology officer for AMB Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Falcons and operators of the stadium. “Whether videoboards or other aspects, our plan is to really reimagine what the experience is when it comes to an NFL game, MLS game or any event in a large venue.”
So the Falcons brought in not one, but two unique video experiences to the retractable-roof stadium set to open this July. The most noticeable comes in the form of its “halo” board, a 63,800-sq.-ft., 360-degree videoboard. At 1,075 feet in length and five stories tall (58 feet) it hovers above the playing field. Due to the size and curvature, Miller said fans no longer have a singular view of a scoreboard, but can simultaneously see the equivalent of three-to-four scoreboards put together.
“This allows us to put a lot of additional content up there,” he said. “Whether we use that increased size to provide a much wider view of the action on the field or enhance it with additional stats, fantasy information, games around the league or other content, we get to think from a content perspective that we are leveraging a continuous medium.”
Having the world’s largest high-definition videoboard provides a “huge canvas” not only for action, but to “accentuate brands and sponsors of teams and venues.”
By partnering with board-maker Daktronics on the production and support of the halo, the Falcons opted for a 15mm HD pitch, slightly less than the 13mm some NFL stadiums use, but still with the same clarity because of the proximity to the fans, Miller said. And upping LED brightness increases clarity, but still at lower power demands than older, smaller boards, a move that fits in with the building’s LEED goals.
Tyler Jones, Daktronics senior project manager, said the halo display will take stadium video to a completely new shape as other venues clamor to follow suit by thinking beyond flat screens. But that isn’t all. The Falcons will also introduce a mega column videoboard, itself larger than 20 other NFL stadiums’ main videoboards. At 6,778 square feet, the display wraps four sides of a column with the side facing the field rising over 100 continuous feet at 25 feet wide.
“More screens in more places is starting to garner more attention,” Jones said. From Mercedes-Benz Stadium, to Minneapolis’ U.S. Bank Stadium’s videoboard on the front of the building with curvature, to the T-Mobile Arena’s see-through marquee in Las Vegas, expect venues to digitize new worlds, he said.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium will also have over 2,000 additional screens, including menu boards, televisions in the restrooms, 65-inch screens adjacent to concession stands, screens on the concourses and ultra-high definition displays of 2.5mm in suites to keep fans constantly connected to the action on the field. LCD screens even replace video walls for higher resolutions.
Miller said a study of venues across the country led to more screens in more places, all commercial grade to limit maintenance and with each individually controlled, both from the main production hub as well as, in some cases, the suites, by fans.
With so much digital—the halo, the column and ribbon boards—Mercedes-Benz Stadium has gone completely digital for sponsorship, removing all permanent signage except for its stadium naming-rights holder. This allows the venue to flip branding immediately, move sponsorship opportunities throughout the venue and open up an entirely new world of selling in-game sponsorship.
“When we move from an NFL game with our sponsors and partners to some other event that is going to bring in their own sponsors, we are going to be able to support that very quickly,” Miller said. “It gives us much greater flexibility.”
How that all comes to bear will remain a work in progress for AMB Sports & Entertainment. To practice programming and delivering content, the Falcons built a half-sized mockup of the halo board. “Our producers are in there on a daily basis,” Miller said. “For something as critical and impactful as the halo board, we are taking that extra step with hands-on testing. We are going to wow fans the first time.”