Along with hindsight, GrizVision is about to be 20/20.
Washington-Grizzly Stadium's south end zone video board screen is getting a makeover this spring, the latest game-day viewing experience upgrade to the home of the Montana football program. The current Jumbotron, one that has been perched above the stadium for 14 seasons, will be replaced by a larger, high-definition 16mm LED screen.
"As soon as (graduation) commencement is over, they're gonna get after it, get 'er down and get 'er up," said Chuck Maes, Montana's associate athletic director for internal operations. "Hopefully by the end of June it's all done."
Neither Maes nor athletic director Kent Haslam had specific dimensions for the new screen, which is being financed at no cost to the university by Learfield Sports, Montana's multimedia rights holder. Maes said that while the height will remain the same, about 14 feet of extra screen space will be added to the width.
The most recent renderings of the board show a screen 55 feet wide by 32 feet tall.
For scale, that would cover the area to the left and right of the video board currently occupied by massive speakers for the stadium's sound system, which is also being upgraded. The width of the current board is slightly more than the distance between the hash marks on the field -- 40 feet.
The installation will also lower the screen to where the current amber-lit scoreboard is "so it will be a lot better viewing angle," Maes said.
To each side, where there are currently rotating tri-vision signs reserved for advertising, smaller rectangle video boards will be used for advertisements or game-day graphics.
The upgrade to GrizVision is the third technological facelift to the stadium in three offseasons. Grizzly Sports Properties, UM's division of Learfield, was responsible for installing LED ribbon video boards in the north end zone in September 2014 and then along the east face of the stadium last August.
"You always try to do things to keep your entertainment value up," Maes said. "Obviously the football team and the game is the main thing, but you've got to have a lot of really positive secondary experiences out there to go along with it."
Of course the purpose of the installation is two-fold, giving Grizzly Sports Properties and Learfield improved inventory for in-game advertisements as well.
The current screen remains the property of Learfield but is near the end of its usage life, Maes said. Though it's been towering over Montana's football field since 2002, the board is several years older than that even.
It previously resided in Times Square in New York City, flashing advertisements down at passing tourists at the turn of the millennium before being donated to Montana because of some fortunate -- and unfortunate -- circumstances.
"When 9/11 hit, all advertising kinda went south and they were spending tens of thousands of dollars a month just to have that board hanging on a building and they weren't selling any advertisements," Maes said.
Some local supporters held the ownership interests in the screen, Maes said, and they shipped it across the country in the summer of 2002 following the Grizzlies' second national championship victory the year prior.
And it's been a workhorse ever since, never missing a game. Maes credited Curt Jacobson of Corporate Technology Group, a networking and IT solutions business in Missoula, for keeping the board up to speed for nearly 15 years.
"He's probably gotten a few extra years out of that for us based on his tender love and care," Maes praised.
The Times Square board represented Montana's first foray into video screens. The program's previous board was re-purposed as the scoreboard that now hangs below the GrizVision screen, a matrix board of lighted bulbs. That board dated back to around UM's first national title in 1995, Maes estimated, when a smaller square matrix board was upgraded with color bulbs.
Just behind GrizVision, final preparations are underway before the ground breaking of the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center project. The new home for football locker rooms, meeting rooms and weight training facilities for all of UM's sports teams is expected to be completed by the fall of 2017.