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Safeco to be home of MLB's largest video screen

SEATTLE -- While Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik goes about looking to beef up the offense this offseason, the club is making off-field improvements at Safeco Field as well that will include installation of the largest video-screen scoreboard in Major League Baseball.

The Mariners announced Thursday that offseason renovations at Safeco will include a new center-field scoreboard that can be converted to a full-sized, 201-foot wide video screen that employs the latest in high-resolution technology and is comparable in size to the massive video board at Cowboys Stadium in the NFL.

"Northwest sports fans have never seen anything like this," said Kevin Martinez, Mariners vice president of marketing.

The club had previously announced that it was renovating the outfield wall at Safeco, bringing the fences in from 4-17 feet at various parts.

Along with other projects that will be announced later this offseason, the stadium renovations and new scoreboard will cost the Mariners about $15 million. That money comes from a different budget than player payroll, which the club has said could be increased from last year's $91 million at the start of the 2012 season.

While the shorter fences will be designed to help bolster scoring at the notoriously pitcher-friendly stadium, the massive scoreboard upgrade is strictly to enhance fans' enjoyment and the club's ability to display statistics, information and sponsorships.

The entire board can be used as a video screen to show live action or video replays, or split into sections for graphics, animation and statistical data. When the full board is used as a video screen, it measures nearly 57 feet in height by 201 1/2 feet in width, or 11,425 square feet.

By comparison, the largest current video screen at an MLB park is the 8,820-square foot board at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, which measures 84-feet by 105-feet. Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia has a 7,372-square foot video board.

The Mariners' scoreboard will be just slightly smaller than the 11,520-square foot video screen at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, which is the largest NFL stadium screen.

Safeco Field's previous scoreboard was part of the original park's construction in 1999.

"The Mariners are committed to building a winner on the field and providing fans with a great experience at the ballpark," Martinez said. "After 13-plus seasons, fans have been asking, 'When are we going to replace the scoreboard?' It's time."

The new video screen fills the same location and space as the old scoreboard above the center-field bleachers, but because the entire board is a high-definition screen, the video space itself is nearly 10 times the size of the current video screen. The Mariners say the video board will be equal to about 2,182 42-inch flat-screen TVs.

The Panasonic HD video board will employ the latest high-resolution technology, with longtime Mariners partner ANC Sports unveiling a "VisionSOFT" operating system that will use a 64-bit operating system for the first time in such a large format. The Mariners say the screen will have image quality that is superior to broadcast HD signals.

"It's like the difference between normal HD programming and a Blu-ray disc, except displayed on an enormous scale," said Dave Curry, the Mariners vice president of technology. "You'll be able to see details like blades of grass and the texture of the infield dirt. Fans will be amazed when they see it."

Demolition of the old scoreboard is already under way. The Mariners expect to begin construction on the new fences as well later this month. All improvements are scheduled to be completed in time for the home opener on April 8 against the Astros.

Greg Johns is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog.
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