Q&A with Ted Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer for the Minnesota Timberwolves

The Target Center recently renovated to a new state-of-the-art integrated video and scoring system,  highlighted by a 15-display centerhung configuration featuring 4,300 total square feet of display space.ted-johnson-headshot

We sat down with Ted Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer for the Minnesota Timberwolves to get his take on the new technology.

What was the vision for the new video and scoring system at the Target Center?

The scoreboard is that one place that brings the entire arena community together to share the experience of the event. We wanted something in the Target Center that would be big and bold, that would make a statement. Because our building was 20 years old, it was really important for us that we pursue a state-of-the-art renovation for the facility. We knew that a scoreboard and a digital signage package as a whole was going to be an important part of making that statement to our community.

What were some challenges that the integrated video and scoring system helped solve?

One of the challenges we faced over the years was our very competitive marketplace. When Target Center was built, we were only one of two venues in town, and now there are ten and even an 11th considered being built, so fans’ expectations for live events have changed, and a big part of that is technology. It’s what they’re doing on their devices in their seats, but also very much the devices that they see in the venue, the digital displays and the scoreboard. And so a big challenge for us was telling the fans that we’re forward-looking and we have something that’s state-of-the art, bigger than life.

What did you learn during the planning and execution of the display project?

You can work in sports for decades and maybe only build or renovate one building, so for all of us, despite our experience in running or managing sports teams or running a venue, this is really only the first time and maybe only time in our careers that we’ll actually build, renovate or install a board like this. So, it’s critically important to have a partner that lives and breathes this so we could innovate and differentiate ourselves in a place that has nine other sports venues. Daktronics was essential in helping us understand the process and providing us creative ideas on things we could do that would make us stand out in a very cluttered, very competitive marketplace.

How do the products and services help you and solve challenges on gameday? 

With the new scoreboard and the new system came a great amount of efficiencies. We had been at enough venues that we thought we understood the impact, but from the staffing side, the increased efficiency in the control room is something we underestimated. Giving our team the ability to manage all of our boards from a central location with the tremendous technology, as well as the service and support from Daktronics on the content creation and getting us up and going on the overwhelming task of implementing a brand new scoreboard control room. Having a partner like Daktronics helped give us a step up. We really underestimated  how much simpler the system has made the life of the technicians and the people working in the control room.

How have the project management and engineering teams performed under the timelines of the installation?

We’ve operated under a stressful schedule. During the first phase of the scoreboard installation with the cabling, the control room, our building was up and running with concerts, and the Minnesota Lynx season in progress, so we had tremendous challenges in trying to fit the project in between a very, very busy arena. Daktronics avoided disruptions to the events, and built everything right up to the edge so that when the day came, we could seamlessly flip over, get that board up and installed up into the rafters and turned on for our fans.

Every single one of these is a highly complicated project, so you’re naturally going to have challenges. Knowing that you can pick up the phone and have someone to talk to walk you through it was very helpful. With Daktronics, when we really needed it, they had boots on the ground too, so it wasn’t just answering that phone call. When everything was on the line, we had Daktronics people onsite, in venue, problem-solving and helping us put on a great show. We didn’t have a lot of time to get in and commission the space or the board. The board was up, being tested, and literally 24 hours later, we’re playing a WNBA game—televised. So there was no room for error, and Daktronics came through with flying colors.

How has the display made an impact on visitors to the venue?

I’ve been to every NBA venue multiple times, spent seven years working on this arena renovation, and even I underestimated the sheer amount of energy that you get from the light that comes off the scoreboard. It’s an amazing thing, and when you get the bigger board, bigger images and brighter lights, it adds another level of energy that’s infectious. You saw that right away when people first walked in for that first Lynx game, you saw it during Game 5 of the WNBA finals. That scoreboard was a big part of adding energy and fuel to those fans. We see that in non-game events too. Target Center of course is a busy venue, there’s all sorts of great concerts that come through and that technology adds an overall impression of professionalism, class and excitement to each of the groups that use Target Center.

Watch the full Target Center video testimonial.

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