Digital signage sets the field for Olympic Field Hockey Team

Digital signage is on the field and ready to play at the biggest indoor sports facility in the U.S. — and the home to the U.S. Field Hockey Team.

The 700,000-square-foot Spooky Nook Sports complex houses athletic fields and courts, rock climbing walls, a retail store, a food court, an arcade, orthopedic and physical therapy offices, conference and convention space, and a fitness and sports performance center. And it's nestled amid more than 50 acres of outdoor sports fields in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County.

It's also slated to become the home of field hockey and base of the U.S. Women's National Team starting this year and through at least 2022, according to an announcement last year from USA Field Hockey and Spooky Nook Sports. The venue, situated in Manheim, Pa., also will host national USA Field Hockey-sanctioned events beginning this year.

That's a lot going on — and a lot of ground to cover. So because Spooky Nook is so large, it needs an efficient way to communicate different types of information with a large number of people across a wide variety of spaces — everything from menu boards in the food court to wayfinding maps in the main lobby. Which is where digital signage comes in.

[Spooky Nook entryway and digital signage]

According to case studies and announcements from digital signage display providerNEC Display Solutions of America and digital signage integratorConnectedSign, Spooky Nook neighbor ConnectedSign has installed 35 NEC displays in Spooky Nook's first phase, with another 60 to come before that side is complete. Phase two will include an additional 127 NEC displays.

That's right: All of that is just Phase One, which has been open a little more than half a year. Phase two, slated to open in the first half of 2014, is even bigger and will include a hotel, indoor turf, more sporting courts, additional convention space and another food court, according to the NEC case study.

"In Spooky Nook's 14-acre facility, our printed signs have a way of getting lost," Spooky Nook Marketing Manager Stephanie Jordan said in the case study. "Spooky Nook Sports can easily host 3,000 to 5,000 people on a normal weekend. The digital signs allow a place for us to get information out to a massive number of people quickly."

The signs had to be easily programmable so they could rapidly transition from displaying room-specific information to a facility-wide alert, NEC said. Some of the signs are located in thoroughfares where people walk by in 30 seconds, while others are in gathering places where they might linger for 20 minutes — and those varied uses require content adapted to the specific needs. Since all the staff was new, they needed to be trained in the different modes of signage and their capabilities, according to the display provider's case study.

And it all had to happen yesterday. Spooky Nook originally gave ConnectedSign an 18-month window that shrunk to nine once the field hockey team signed its contract.

"Having an Olympic team in our facility attracts the crowds," Jordan said. "We needed to have our signs working to help with wayfinding around our facility."

While it has handled projects bigger than Spooky Nook, ConnectedSign owner Loren Bucklin said it was the most rapidly deployed installation of this complexity he's done.

"Spooky Nook is implementing just about every possible use for digital signage, all under one roof," he said.

In the initial phase, Spooky Nook Sports wanted to display various types of digital signage, including digital menu boards for its food service areas, signage displays for its climbing venue, a vertically oriented dual-screen display, a wayfinding map display and a digital signage video wall, according to ConnectedSign.

And the digital signage displays were designed to be not only visually appealing, but also informative in the sense that they enable guests and staff to access information about social events, summer camps and programs, service hours, tournaments and more in an organized and creative way.

"This project was different than most," said Zach Kolodziejski, lead interface designer at ConnectedSign. "This wasn't a deployment at a location that was already established. It was growing as we were working on the project ... It's the largest sports complex in the country, so there isn't really a point of reference that you can really comprehend until you are physically on site. A 55-inch display looks large when it's in a waiting room lobby, but when you're in an area that is about a half-acre alone, graphically, you have to think ahead and make sure things aren't too small, or looking out of place."

One of the hallmarks of the installation is an interactive kiosk that visitors can use not just to navigate Spooky Nook's sprawling acreage but also to search shuttle bus schedules or find a nearby place to eat, the NEC case study said. Spooky Nook realized it could integrate promotions into the kiosk as well by having local restaurants pay to have coupons or discounts appear, creating a marketing triangle between the sports center, local businesses and visitors.

"[The] digital displays enhance the customer's experience when they enter our facility," Jordan said in a ConnectedSign press release. "The displays help with overall internal branding to make this vast business come together as a whole. These high-quality screens look extremely professional and help organize and control large crowds of people. We are still learning about the screens' capabilities and have yet to use them to their full potential. However, there's no telling what they can do for the brand of our evolving sports, entertainment and events complex."