The CenturyLink Center is ready to show off its new centerpiece: a shiny new scoreboard with the kind of sharp resolution you can usually find only in professional sports arenas.
Wednesday, the Metropolitan Entertainment and Convention Authority unveiled its $6 million upgrade, which includes the scoreboard, new digital ribbon panels, a second large video display and a new, state-of-the art control room.
The scoreboard, which weighs in at 30,000 pounds, has four large video displays that cover more space than those on the old scoreboard. In total, the screens account for 3,467 square feet of LED display. That's the equivalent of 330 big-screen televisions or 720 iPads.
Officials with MECA and other groups that book events said the updated technology will make for a dramatically different experience at Creighton basketball games, University of Nebraska at Omaha hockey games, concerts and national events like the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials.
The displays' 4 mm pixel resolution is a full 2,700 percent sharper than their predecessors.
The CenturyLink Center is the only non-professional sports facility in the country with 4 mm pixel displays.
Roger Dixon, MECA's president, said officials will use the equipment as a selling point when it works to secure NCAA events.
“This is going to be a big factor, that we can show this as part a refresh of the facility,” Dixon said. “We're not sitting back and resting. We've got to keep this place state of the art.”
Harold Cliff, president of the Omaha Sports Commission, said the new equipment played an important role in helping Omaha secure the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials for a third time. He said USA Swimming officials took note of the CenturyLink's aging technology — which hadn't been updated since the facility opened a decade ago — and were encouraged by the news that upgrades were in the works.
“It's a huge asset to stay current,” Cliff said. “If you want to raise the bar, you need to have the appropriate equipment. And this is beautiful.”
The work on the scoreboard and control room comes as MECA is making other big changes to the CenturyLink Center, including renovating its concession stands, expanding its wireless network and updating the telephone system.
The scoreboard was funded out of MECA's capital reserve fund. It is owned by MECA, which is a change from the past. The old scoreboard and ribbon panels were owned by the City of Omaha.
John Lund, MECA's board president, said officials knew the new equipment would come at a considerable expense, but considered it a necessary expense.
“We are very proud of this investment,” he said. “And we believe it will bring a lot of delight to people, young and old, for all of the events that come to our facility.”
The scoreboard will get its official public debut during the River City Rodeo, which runs from Sept. 26 to Sept. 29.