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It's about time — and money — for new scoreboards at U.S. Cellular Field

White Sox, fans stand to benefit from enhanced displays, even if some history will be lost

Illinois Sports Facilities Authority

The last time I went to a White Sox game at U.S. Cellular Field -- Labor Day against the Indians -- the left field scoreboard was not in good shape for the start of the game.

Left field scoreboard

The scoreboard behind right field wasn't faring much better.

The boards remained comatose well into the second inning, and it's more detrimental to the experience than a serious baseball fan would like to admit. Chris Sale's radar-gun readings were nowhere to be found, nor was Trevor Bauer's pitch count as he walked a handful over batters over his first two innings. There were also a couple of out-of-town games of postseason significance that couldn't be followed without checking a phone -- and I try not to check a phone during innings.

This is what Brooks Boyer was referring to when discussing the need for new displays, which Illinois taxpayers are going to give the White Sox over the long winter's nap:

"Right now, that's the smallest board in Major League Baseball," Boyer said of the current center-field screen at U.S. Cellular Field. "As you guys have seen, you are here on a daily basis, you've seen these flickering. You've seen them going in and out.

"There's proprietary software and hardware in the right-field and left-field boards from a company that is bankrupt. So, being able to service those has been quite some time and ISFA has been a terrific partner with us. ... They put together a great plan. It's very responsible for the state and ultimately great to add to the value of U.S. Cellular Field for them and, as it is for us, being the main tenant, or any other tenant that may come in here and rent the facility."

The solution, along with the details from Danny Ecker at Crain's Chicago Business?

The key takeaway from the business side is that we could start seeing more non-Sox events at The Cell, now that the ISFA can sell ads and other entities can put on better shows. The first one could very well be a Northern Illinois University football game. That's about only thing that even resembles softening the blow for taxpayers who have zero interest in the park or its tenants.

Regarding the experience for those of us who will be basking in the glow of three new boards, a few thoughts...

No. 1: The video board in center could be awesome, obnoxious, or both.

Using all of the center field board to show the largest of three Conor Gillaspie photos doesn't do the renderings any favors, but if the entire area is dedicated to a screen, there are a ton of things you can do with it. For instance, the Padres sprung their giant new scoreboard at Petco Park on unsuspecting fans by cleverly disguising it as their dated electronic display.

It'd be a waste of taxpayer money to use the Cell's board to mimic the DiamondVision display, even for a moment. But as Rob suggested, this would be a cool mode to flip to:

It's just about the same shape, after all. Whenever they're wearing retro jerseys, they can have a center field scoreboard to match. They can turn back the literal clock.

No. 2: I'm skeptical of the new pinwheels.

As illustrated, they look more like decorative toothpicks than those sturdy homer monstrosities. We'll need to see them in action before coming to any conclusions. For all we know, they could end up capturing the extravagance Bill Veeck had in mind while spinning it forward.

No. 3: I'll probably miss the bulb board in left.

I feel more certain about this one. Your uncle's projection TV in center field is terrible, and the big board in right is kind of a mishmash of information. Both of those can be taken out to the curb on the next amnesty day without a single tear shed.

The scoreboard in left field is associated with some great memories, like:




(Getty Images)

An omnipresent, highly visible line score needs to be in the mix, because it's a go-to picture for momentous occasions. I imagine the Sox have that in mind, similar to what Safeco Field does with its smaller-yet-still-huge board in left:

(The groundbreaking event was when I dunked a churro into Peet's coffee.)

That'll serve the same purpose, but those damned mortal bulbs grounded those moments in that specific stadium at that specific time. So that'll be the thing I bore young people and their companions with when I'm old.

(I was about to say the disappearance of the bulb board might be the first renovation casualty I'm actually nostalgic about -- the blue seats were always awful -- but looking for the Buehrle cover also yielded pictures of Dewayne Wise mashed up against Billy Pierce. The fence art for the retired numbers was a big loss, especially since Luke Appling doesn't have a statue.)

No. 4: That's an awful lot of Conor Gillaspie.

Speaking of things I can wax nostalgic about.