PHOENIX -- Some Brewers fans will laugh at the notion that the yellow and black matrix monstrosity of a scoreboard at old County Stadium was anything close to state-of-the-art. But when it debuted in 1980, it was among the best in baseball, capable of live action, replays, slow motion and animation on what was considered a large 1,500 sq. ft. matrix screen. A few months later, Sony debuted the full-color JumboTron, and suddenly that "two-fisted slopper" cartoon seemed quaint.
The same thing happened at Miller Park. The ballpark's opening was delayed a year, for starters, and at the same time high-definition technology was proliferating. Fans still marveled at their first look at the new 1,296 sq. ft. video screen and 2,432 sq. ft. matrix screen below, but as 10 seasons of baseball went by, the system grew outdated, and then problematic.
Now, the club is back on the cutting-edge. A massive, high-definition video board is set to debut on Monday, when the Brewers begin the 2011 home schedule with a game against the Braves.
It's the fourth-largest scoreboard in Major League Baseball at 5,940 sq. ft. and came with a price tag north of $10 million.
The only larger boards in baseball are at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium (8,900 sq. ft), Houston's Minute Maid Park (7,000 sq. ft. and also debuting this season) and Phoenix's Chase Field (6,200 sq. ft.). And it's up to a group of veteran front office staffers to make sure it's worth the investment.
"It's very cool, and it's also probably one of the most -- is stressful the right word? -- jobs we've done," said Aleta Mercer, the club's vice president of entertainment and broadcasting. "It's challenging, because it's one of those huge projects. We know it's going to be great, but it has to be great on Day 1. The biggest day that you'll have is the first day you'll use it."
The club has updated some of the regular features common around baseball -- the Kiss Cams and trivia contests that help fill the half-inning breaks. Mercer and Anderson spent time in Spring Training interviewing players for other features, so fans will be well-apprised of Ryan Braun's favorite postgame meal and John Axford's first job.
At the same time, three different video production companies were putting the finishing touches on various other video elements, including a slick new "open" that will air before players take the field.
"I'm very excited about that," Anderson said.
"The thing I like about the whole project is that so many people in the club have been working on it that there's a lot of ownership," Mercer said. "Everybody agrees that, yes, this has to be great."