Lopers creating new football experience with additions


UNK’s plan is to have a video board by fall 2024. Courtesy of UNK Athletics

Grant Tighe

Football at Ron & Carol Cope Stadium is going to look a little different in a few years. That is, if the UNK athletic program can get the funds it needs to make the upgrades that they envision. Program officials want to add a new video board, sound system and pavilion to the stadium. 

The plan is to install the new video board in the south endzone by fall 2024.

“We know for a fact the scoreboard has been hit by lightning a couple of times,” said UNK Athletic Director Marc Bauer. “Each time that has happened, its created more issues.”

The board freezes so UNK can’t do much graphically with it. They usually just put a solid image up on it and leave it be. The away team name on the scoreboard often disappears for no apparent reason as well. Daktronics has told the school that repairs would be costly since the parts are out of date.

UNK athletics has met with Morrissey Engineering out of Omaha and Wilkins Architecture in Kearney to help design the new video board. UNK is continually revising the design to be versatile and fit in with the rest of campus. The most recent product is very similar to the scoreboard of MIAA foe Missouri Western. 

“Wilkins looked at a bunch of different designs trying to come up with the best design that could incorporate our campus architecture,” Bauer said. “It looks like the buildings in the background as opposed to an industrial-looking scoreboard that doesn’t fit in.”

UNK athletics first released the design at the Loper Backers Banquet to gain interest from donors. The project is externally funded up to this point, which means the athletic department hasn’t received any funding from the university. Bauer estimates that about one-third of the new video board has been funded by donors.

UNK athletics is also planning to move the bleachers from the north endzone to the visitor’s sideline. After the pandemic, the band was moved to the visitor’s sideline for a better listening experience for home fans. MIAA administrators noted that having the band directly behind the visiting bench was against the rules. By moving more bleachers to that sideline, the UNK band would be able to play without disturbing the visiting bench area and violating that rule.

The bleachers in the north endzone would be replaced with a pavilion. It would be an open-roofed area, and UNK officials even discussed putting a ribbon video board on top of that pavilion. This idea is still in its early stages, but UNK is trying to accomplish this with the help of local businesses and donors. 

LoperVision has been using ScoreVision software in the Health & Sports Center for volleyball, basketball and wrestling events. UNK will continue to use this software for football and women’s soccer games as well.

“It will be pretty easy. I won’t have to make a new template or anything,” said Jeff Babl, LoperVision video production coordinator. “A lot of the fun stuff that we did this year was because of ScoreVision. A lot of what you see in the basketball and volleyball games you will see at football as well because of ScoreVision.”

UNK has been the model for ScoreVision as it is the first school to have a 12-board video production. They know a one-board video production out on the football field would be much simpler. Kearney High also uses ScoreVision at its home events. This new video board would allow the high school to use its ScoreVision software when the Bearcats play at Foster Field.

LoperVision recently moved into the old football offices at the Health & Sports Center. The plan is to make the offices the new control room for Loper events at Foster Field and in the Health & Sports Center.

News Channel Nebraska also has video rights to UNK football games. The UNK athletic department has looked into using NCN’s video footage for the new video board. With the MIAA changing rules to incorporate more video reviews, Babl said it will be imperative to have collaboration with NCN to ensure the best game production possible.

The current scoreboard has a crow’s nest for a video camera to get an endzone view. For the new video board, UNK will mount a camera that stays on the board at all times. The coaching staff would use this camera to film practices.

“It’s a Hudl focus camera, and we’ve used something similar in the basketball arena for many years,” Babl said. “It’s key motioned and the basketball teams use it to record their practices and games. It would be a lot easier for the football and women’s soccer teams than to have a student go up there and film.”

The sound system for the stadium is also in the scoreboard. With the new video board setup, UNK is planning on having speakers installed down on the field.

The Loper Backers Banquet raised over $260,000 this last year for the football program. All of that money goes into scholarships for the program and into the football operating budget. With the project externally funded, the athletic department knows it will take time to raise the money for this new vision for Ron & Carol Cope Stadium. 

This project is the next thing on the list for UNK athletics after the completion of recent projects such as the new wrestling room, Health & Sports Center video board, new football offices and the Cushing Coliseum floor renovations this summer. They know it will take help from donors to complete this project, but they are confident in the support from the Kearney community.

“There’s just so much more you can do,” Bauer said. “Everybody has seen it with what we have done in the Health & Sports Center. It supports the student-athlete experience. It supports the fan experience. It supports the athletic department at a much higher level because we can do a lot of different advertising with the digital scoreboard. It’s amazing what we can do, but we gotta get to that point. We are not there yet.”