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New scoreboard Christmas gift from Sens to fans

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators president Cyril Leeder speaks about the Bell HD Screen, the new video scoreboard that will soon be installed at Scotiabank Place ahead of the 2012 NHL all-star game (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle/Getty Images).

Call it an early Christmas present from the Ottawa Senators to their fans.

The Senators, along with partners Bell and Scotiabank, announced today that a new state-of-the-art scoreboard is on the way to Scotiabank Place later this month. Installation of the centre-hung showpiece, entitled the Bell HD Screen and features four huge high-definition LED videoboards, is set to begin at the end of next week.

"I know our fans and our organization have waited a long time for this — and patience pays off," said Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk, who made the new scoreboard a priority in this, the Senators' 20th anniversary season. "The Bell HD Screen will be among the best in the NHL. This new scoreboard represents the latest in video technology and will, without a doubt, take our in-game entertainment and fan experience to a whole new level."

The videoboards on the Bell HD Screen are expected to be functional for the Senators’ home game against the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 27, with the two custom-designed LED rings to be completed with the following month. A new control room, which will allow Scotiabank Place to unleash the new board's full capabilities, won't be installed until February.

With more than 2,170 feet of viewing space, the LED screens offer a 441 per cent increase in size — they're 16 x 21 feet — over the current scoreboard, which includes 7.5 x 10-feet standard definition screens. In addition, there are ring-shaped LED viewing surfaces on the top and bottom of the scoreboard. The structure carries a pricetag of nearly $5 million, and is the largest possible board that could be installed into the roof structure at Scotiabank Place.

That the Senators are delivering the new scoreboard in time for the 2012 NHL All-Star Weekend, which includes events Jan. 28-29 at Scotiabank Place, achieves a major goal for the organization and satisfies a big desire for the team's fans.

"It’s an important step for us and the fans," Senators president Cyril Leeder said of replacing the current videoboard, which has been in use since 2000. "It’s been a long time in coming, but sometimes the important projects take a little bit of time. We’re just glad we were able to get it done and get it done in time for the all-star game.

"Certainly, from a fan perspective, it’s more symbolic. It basically tells our fans ‘we’re committed to you, we need a new screen and you’ve been asking for it.’ We made the commitment that we would replace the screen and we made every effort to get it done for the all-star game. Being true to our fans that way … it’s important to have that relationship with your fans."

The installation process begins immediately after the Senators' Dec. 22 home game against the Florida Panthers at Scotiabank Place, when crews from Panasonic — which is supplying the technology for the Bell HD Screen — began the dismantling and removal of the current scoreboard. They'll work through Christmas weekend to get the main LED boards in working order for the matchup against the Habs five days later.

Leeder compared the new videoboard to the one that was installed in the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, when that building opened a year ago. The Bell HD Screen has the capabilities of similar scoreboards at the Bell Centre in Montreal and the TD Garden in Boston.

"It’s almost 15 years old, the existing board, and technology has really improved," said Leeder. "It’s definitely time for a new one. (The Bell HD Screen) is almost five times the size and nearly nine times the resolution of the existing system. The existing system would be less than a quarter of the size."

While the Senators didn't include the promise of a new scoreboard when they bid for the 2012 all-star game, Leeder said the league played a role in making it happen.

"(NHL commissioner) Gary Bettman actually made the introduction to Panasonic for us and helped make this happen," said Leeder. "So the league did have a hand in helping us get there."

The new scoreboard was designed and procured through Anthony James Partners, a Canadian-owned consortium based in Richmond, Va., which specializes in such sports arena installations. The Senators worked closely with AJP's Michael Rowe, an Ottawa native, for the past year to develop the new system's distinctive look. 

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