Over the summer, the University of Connecticut will be replacing the court at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, the first time this has ever happened in the facility’s 33-year history. By the time the new academic year rolls around, there will be a new maple surface ready to host championship-winning basketball and one season of competitive volleyball before the women’s volleyball team makes the Freitas Ice Forum its home.
This is not the first time over the last 10 years that Gampel has undergone a significant adjustment to one of its notable features. Back in 2017, UConn replaced over 2,000 of the triangular roof and ceiling tiles due to deteriorating conditions, extending the facility’s lifetime by 10-15 years. While the court and ceiling tiles have been the only significant changes to Gampel since 2016, the two scoreboards located opposite each other should be upgraded within the next few years. There is nothing wrong with them as they are, but the videoboards are microscopic compared to jumbotrons in other venues across the nation.
Scoreboards first came to Gampel prior to the 1999-2000 season, featuring the score, the time on the clock, the number of points a player scored, their fouls assessed and more. Those scoreboards stood through it all as the UConn basketball teams won six national titles, five of which came from the women’s team, and made nine Final Fours across 10 seasons. The current main videoboards in Gampel were installed prior to the 2009-10 season — back when the current undergraduate students were in the early years of their K-12 education — and stand at 12.5-by-23 feet with over 270,000 total pixels. Other digital renovations at Gampel that season included separate stacked displays for statistics of individuals on the court and both teams, as well as message boards at all four corners.
Now, I am not suggesting replacing the two screens with a jumbotron hanging from the center of the court like we see in arenas across the nation. While this would add a modern feel to a historic facility like the one at Assembly Hall does, it would detract the viewer from the action on the hardwood floor as well as the soon-to-be 16 national championship banners residing under the rafters. When I think about replacing a new scoreboard in this context, I am focusing more on upgrading what already exists.
Over the past few years, multiple Major League Baseball stadiums have increased the size of their jumbotrons by essentially expanding on their current ones. This is especially the case with Citizens Bank Park and Citi Field, two stadiums on the east coast that significantly increased the size of their jumbotrons during the offseason. Inspired by the work of those NL East foes, I want to bring the same concept to Gampel.
Upon entering Gampel, one of the first features an individual will notice are the jumbotrons on either end of the court. There is no difference between either one as six sponsors, one of which has been covered up, the “University of Connecticut” wording and the basic team statistics surround each scoreboard. What I am suggesting through the upgrade of the scoreboard is replacing all of that with an LED screen. I have not considered the entire layout of this new screen, such as where to put advertisements from the team’s official sponsors and the Live Score Bug, but I feel like adding a giant screen could create even more of a competitive advantage for the Huskies.
The only constraint standing in the way of making this digital expansion a reality is the Huskies of Honor, a recognition program for the most successful people and teams in UConn basketball’s storied history. These members, which include coaches, players, and championship-winning teams, are recognized with either the jersey number they wore during their tenure in Storrs, a UConn-specific logo or one from the Final Four that year located between the videoboard and the statistical scoreboards. This is almost similar to the constraint the Toronto Blue Jays faced when upgrading their decades-old videoboard at the Rogers Centre ahead of the 2022 season.
Located just behind the scoreboard is a Marriott hotel, where half of the rooms as well as a restaurant in the lobby face the faithful Toronto crowd. Rather than increasing their entire scoreboard, the Blue Jays took a different approach by adding 14 feet of height. That miniscule change was just one part of the puzzle as they also added two new separate ribbons on both sides of the screen, making it look like they finished a circle around the lower bowl.
If the Blue Jays’ approach is taken to increase the scoreboard at Gampel, then that could potentially mean adding ribbons underneath the Huskies of Honor banners and removing the “Basketball Capital of the World” signage under the current scoreboards. For two reasons, this is all much easier said than done. First, people at the very top of rows 201-205 and 213-217 may accidentally bump into the scoreboards if they are not protected by security, thus damaging the bright LED screens. Second, the university might not want these ribbons to interfere with the Huskies of Honor program, especially if more names are added and there is no alternative location to put them.
I recognize that not every college basketball program, especially those in smaller conferences, can afford to implement a jumbotron in their facilities. With that in mind, I am grateful that the university is able to afford two jumbotrons of equivalent size that display winning basketball taking place on the court. Although I am fine with the scoreboards the way they currently are, times have changed since 2009, as college basketball arenas house massive jumbotrons, some of which are almost 10 times bigger than the ones in Storrs. Riding off the highs of another national title, the time is now to make the Gampel scoreboards bigger.