The Engineering Marvel behind College Football’s Largest Video Board

September 16, 2015


When the new video board was recently installed at Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium, it became the largest in college football. While the size of the new video board has made headlines, the story behind the installation of the massive board is one of an incredible engineering feat.

At 10,830 sq ft, the new video board is 435 percent larger than the old board, measuring 190 ft wide by 57 ft tall. If turned upright, the board is taller than Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the length of the board is longer than the White House.

With 700 tons of structural steel, the superstructure presented a number of challenges to the construction team, which included engineer LBYD, architect Infinity Sports Facilities and construction manager Brasfield & Gorrie.

2015AUVBoard5-webAmong the chief challenges was the fast-track nature of this project. Though a project of this scope would typically take 10 months, the team completed it in just over six. Part of what helped the team meet this shortened timeline was the design of the superstructure. Nearly 100 percent of the steel frame was bolted together in the field, reducing the time necessary for time-consuming field welding.

Compounding the scheduling challenge was an issue presented by an existing high-voltage power line running through the center of the project site. At 43 kilovolts, the voltage of this power line is approximately 358 times higher than a traditional home power outlet, presenting a significant need for safety precautions.

Neither of the two cranes on the project site—which every major contractor involved in the project needed to use—was allowed within 20 feet of the power line, making it difficult to stage and deliver materials. To address this issue, Heisman Drive was closed to traffic to supply lay-down room. A creative approach to scheduling also helped overcome this challenge.

Another significant challenge involved anchoring the structure, which is designed to withstand 95 mph winds, or the equivalent of an EF 1 tornado, at almost 200 feet in the air, a task that was compared to keeping the world’s largest kite from blowing away.

To construct a foundation that would safely and securely anchor the massive video board, the team used a special high-performance concrete mix with a design strength of 10,000 lb per sq in. The foundation has six 7.25-foot-thick concrete mats, or pile caps, two of which are designed to withstand 1.2 million lb of force.

In spite of the challenges, the team managed to complete this project in a total of 180 days, in plenty of time for the first home football game of the season. As the video board lights up with scenes from the game, also on display will be an engineering feat and a win for the entire project team.