You’re working on the annual budget for your track and field facility, and you keep coming back to that big item on your wish list: a scoreboard. And not just any scoreboard, but a really great scoreboard, one that will make a nice finishing touch and tie the whole package together for a slick, clean look.

And honestly, that’s perfectly understandable. A great scoreboard adds to the aesthetics of any facility; in fact, it can transform a regular field and lend a professional vibe. And, when designed accordingly, it sends a strong signal that you’ve got a first-class athletic program.

Obviously, there have been evolutions in scoreboard technology since officials had to hang or flip numbers by hand or by using a long pole. The advent of electronic scoreboards not only allowed for real-time updates of action on the field, but opened the door to using scoreboards for advertising, promotion and thanking sponsors as well as delivering various other messages.

These days, LED lighting has replaced the old incandescent bulbs to provide a longer-lasting, brighter display with more color options and better resolution of images. LED scoreboards also get bonus points for being more energy-efficient.

Most builders who specialize in sports fields and running tracks have worked with vendors of various types of equipment, and scoreboards are no exception. Your first call, therefore, should be to your contractor for advice. (And yes, you can continue to do all that fun research on the Internet in the meantime; just wait for some professional input before you make any investment.)

Inevitably, the question will arise regarding the cost of a scoreboard. And while a good piece of equipment – particularly one that involves technology, as does a scoreboard – does constitute an investment, there are varying levels of complexity that will allow for different price points. (In fact, there are even portable electronic scoreboards that can be moved between fields, should those become necessary.) Companies that specialize in scoreboard technology can work with customers and allow them to design something they need, given all the various parameters – location of the scoreboard, desired size, necessary features and, of course, budget.

Contractors also caution field owners to keep an open mind when buying a scoreboard. It’s an important aspect of the field; however, it’s only one aspect. Don’t overspend and then have to make budget cuts when it comes to important – but sometimes far less attractive – line items like maintenance and upkeep.

Consultation with a professional is an essential part of the process of purchasing and installing a scoreboard. Something a contractor will be aware of is the necessary clearance between the sidelines and any structures such as a scoreboard. Installation of a scoreboard necessarily involves the installation of an appropriate electrical supply. In this case, a field contractor will be an invaluable resource. Resist the temptation to save money by having someone do this work if they have no experience with athletic facilities.

“We have had five tracks damaged this year due to burrowing underneath for new electrical and/or water inside the field,” notes Sam Fisher of Fisher Tracks in Boone, Iowa. “In nearly every case, the owner thought they could do it themselves rather than hire a professional. They were too close to the underside of the surface and heaved the track. The cost to fix can be nearly tenfold the expense of having a professional direct borer handle such a task.”

In the ideal world, a scoreboard would be put in at the same time the facility is built; however, many modifications are made to athletic facilities during their lifespan, including addition of various amenities and accessories. Your sports contractor can provide information regarding how long installation will take and whether anything else should be upgraded while the scoreboard is being put in. For example, if the facility is being worked on, it might be a good time to check and upgrade lights, bleachers or other furnishings.

A great field, a well-kept track and a shiny new scoreboard are all things your facility can have, particularly when you partner with a professional in the sports facility design and construction industry.

What else is there? Oh, right, a win – but that part is up to your athletes!