There will be a noticeable difference walking into Blue Wahoos Stadium this season.
The video scoreboard will be eye-catching. Bigger, bolder, more vivid in images.
Instillation begins Monday for a new high definition video scoreboard that will be nearly 11 feet taller and a foot wider than the existing video board that was installed during stadium construction.
When placed in the same location as the current scoreboard, the $230,000 video board should draw attention.
"It's going to create a wow factor," said team owner Quint Studer.
That was Studer's reaction when he saw a display of this video board during the merchant trade fair at Major League Baseball's Winter Meetings in December. The video scoreboard is manufactured by Formetco, an Atlanta company which specializes in LED billboards and video scoreboards at sports venues.
The company just installed one of its video boards at the new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which will be the home arena for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, an NHL expansion franchise.
"I was with Bubba Watson -- and I think Bubba was over there shooting baskets or doing something," said Studer, jokingly. "And so we turn a corner and I saw this very, crystal-clear video board.
"I did not want to ask what the price was, because I thought they were so outrageous (in price) it would be impossible (to purchase)."
But he asked.
And it he bought one for $230,000, which mirrors how fast prices have fallen (as a fraction of scale) with, say, HD and 4K television sets for consumers. These video boards were once $1 million and up for stadiums. Today's video boards seem a bargain in comparison.
"I was thinking it would be around $700,000 and there was no way," Studer said. "It's still expensive, but much less than I was expecting. It comes with a 10-year warranty. Our current scoreboard warranty expired after last season and we had issues with it all year."
The city and University of West Florida is helping with the costs. The Community Maritime Park Associates (CMPA) has agreed on a $100,000 payment at $20,000 annually for five years. UWF is kicking in $15,000.
"This has been a great partnership," Studer said. "The CMPA gets the advantage of spreading out the payments over time at no interest, UWF gets a video board much better for football than they had last year.. We get an advantage,because we think we get a nice board for $115,000 so it is one of those win-win-wins that you search for."
The new board will arrive Wednesday and installed, following two days or prep work and removing the current video board. The following week, Formetco representatives will spend the week training Blue Wahoos personnel on operations and testing everything.
"Our goal is to have it functional by the Gulf Breeze-Catholic (prep baseball) game on (March) 28th." said Jonathan Griffith, the Blue Wahoos team president. "That is a tight time. It gives us only eight days. But that is what they are trying to do.
"By opening day (April 6 for Blue Wahoos) it will be fully functional."
Constant malfunctions last year with the video board became problematic. Whether it was after a storm, or often during a game in clear weather, the video board went out.
And it didn't work the rest of that particular game or sometimes for another game before replacement parts and other fixes got it operating again.
"We had people at the ballpark with birthdays, their anniversaries, and they were disappointed because the scoreboard wasn't working and they had planned to see their name up there," Studer said. "We knew how expensive it was getting to keep fixing it.
"The cost of fixing it versus the cost of a new one.... it made it so much more possible if the CMPA would see it the way we did. And they did."
Giffith explained the major issue with the existing scoreboard was its cooling system. The board had vent fans and that was pulling in saltwater air from Pensacola Bay.
"This video board is system that is all self contained, so it has no fans. It is not bringing in salt air," Griffith said. "It has an automatic cooling system within the system. and it is fully sealed. So it will never get water get in there. That is why the company is able to give us a 10-year warranty, because they feel so confident in the sealing."
The new video board is one of several investments the Blue Wahoos will be making to enhance the fan experience as they start their sixth season in Pensacola. The team has attracted 300,000 plus fans each year and has become a model franchise in minor league baseball.
Wednesday night, the team was honored at the Pensacola Sports Awards Banquet for winning Baseball America's Bob Freitas as the best Double-A organization. Last year was the first year the team was eligible after the minimum five years of existence.