County commissioners approved $1.5 million for a new scoreboard at Five County Stadium last week, ending about three years of finding ways to make the outdated board last.
The new, 85-by-34 foot board will be mostly digital, with the room and ability to run an almost completely video scoreboard.
More importantly, it will work.
“We became good at trying to keep it going but especially the last three years, we didn’t know if the board would make it through the season which makes it difficult to go out and sell sponsors,” Five County Stadium General Manager Joe Kremer said.
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The Mudcats’ board lasted 15 seasons, longer than similar boards and stadiums. N.C. State, for example, bought a similar board a year about the Mudcats and replaced its board four years ago.
Kremer said for the past few years, the Mudcats have been using old video modules and parts from N.C. State’s old scoreboard, which the stadium acquired when the university got a new one.
Kremer said stadium employees had special tricks to make sure the board would work for games and other events. They could switch out modules in the board, turn the board on and off or try less traditional methods, like using pencil erasers on some of the back-end technology in the press box.
“Sometimes it was easy as hitting different buttons and sometimes it wasn’t as easy,” he said. “If it didn’t work, (employees) would leave it and go back later to look at electrical stuff. Everybody got quite the education (in repairing the board).”
In the official proposal to county commissioners, county staff pointed out the scoreboard had reached its “life cycle” and replacement parts were no longer available from the manufacturer for repairs.
Town and county job
The Mudcats’ new scoreboard is just part of the responsibility the county carries, since it owns 85 percent of the stadium under the terms of a 2005 lease agreement. The county and the town of Zebulon own the board, but it is up to the Mudcats to maintain it.
The county is funding the $1.5 million socreboard through its Major Facilities Fund, which includes money collected through the county’s hotel and prepared food and beverage tax.
The same tax revenue was used last month to partially fund a basketball facility in Knightdale and an athletic center in Morrisville. Those two projects were part of a competitive process, chosen from several projects proposed by other towns in the county, but the Mudcats’ scoreboard was not part of that process.
The Carolina Mudcats have been in the market for a new scoreboard since 2012 but county staff went through an extensive evaluation and research effort to make sure it was the appropriate long-term investment to make, commissioner Joe Bryan said.
“The importance of any of our assets ... is to make sure those venues continue to be very competitive vendors to bring visitors to Wake County,” Bryan said. “The Mudcats (stadium) is the only effort out in eastern Wake County and we need to make sure it continues to be a strong, competitive asset.”
The county brought in a sports consultant, studied other stadiums that are home to minor league baseball teams and crunched numbers.
The board will not cost the town of Zebulon any money, but as partial owners, commissioners will need to approve the new scoreboard purchase at their Oct. 6 meeting.