Professional sports teams are attempting at a furious rate to lure fans away from the comfort of their couches to live games. And sweet technological upgrades to their home venues become a bigger selling point every year.
Roughly a dozen Major League Baseball clubs followed that strategy by making tech-centric improvements to their ballparks in advance of the 2011 season, which kicks off Thursday. Notable upgrades include ballpark-wide Wi-Fi access (Chicago White Sox) and LED high-definition ribbon boards (Arizona Diamondbacks). Here's a deeper look at nine other teams that have made similar significant upgrades.
Above:Houston Astros – Minute Maid Park
The Astros join the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins as the only MLB teams to feature a scoreboard with a 1080i display format. "Fans are watching games on high-definition [television], so when they come out to the ballpark we want things to be in high-definition, as well," Kirby Kander, the Astros' senior director of creative services, told Wired.com. Where once stood a 26-by-45-foot scoreboard in right field, there's now a 54-by-124-foot Daktronics behemoth that ranks as the fourth-largest scoreboard in the majors.
A 10-year, $285 million plan to modify 99-year-old Fenway Park concluded this off-season with $40 million in construction upgrades, the most prominent of which are three new scoreboards beyond right-center field. ANC Sports Enterprises teamed with Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision Systems to install three video screens: a 38-by-100-foot scoreboard in right-center field that replaces a 23-by-30-foot structure installed in 1976 (but the famous John Hancock sign will still tower over the new 'board), a 17-by-100-foot video screen in center field, and a 16-by-30-foot video board in right field.
The primary scoreboard has the ability to display side graphics, as the old scoreboard did, or move to full-screen video to capture live action. The side 'boards will incorporate game info such as player stats, pitch speed and type, box scores, promotions, announcements and other types of messages.