Fort Dorchester High School's football season came to a close last week at the hands of Summerville, but there's one area where the Patriots will soon outscore every school in the state.
A new scoreboard with a price tag of $297,725.95 will offer the biggest video screen of any high school in South Carolina and one of the largest in the Southeast, officials said.
Some said the scoreboard at Fort Dorchester's Bagwell Field could touch off a competition of schools trying to outdo each other for the best sign.
"I did hear that Summerville … may be following suit," said Lee Edenfield of the Fort Dorchester Booster Club. "(And Ashley Ridge's scoreboard) is pretty plain because they're a new school, but I don't know if they plan to do something."
The Daktronics sign is 55 feet tall and 32 feet wide and comes with a 14-by-25-foot video screen that will broadcast live footage and instant replays from three cameras, said Courtney Smith of Daktronics Sports Marketing.
"When they said the figure, I just started laughing," said Fort Dorchester athletic director and football coach Steve LaPrad. He said he was initially reluctant to support it.
"To me, the scoreboard I've got tells me about all I need: what the score is and how much time is left," he said. "I have no idea why we need a new one, and I didn't want to do it, especially if it's more about ego than efficiency."
But Susan Edenfield, also of the booster club, said, "It was time to get up with the times. We've had the (current) scoreboard for a long, long time, and we're a (Class AAAA) school, so we go to bigger cities and play and then come back home and say, 'Gosh, I wish we had a nice scoreboard.'"
LaPrad said he agreed to the project when he realized that it would provide a better experience for those attending games in the 7,000-seat stadium, which last month was named one of the top 10 stadiums in the state by The Post and Courier. Also on that list was Byrnes High School in Spartanburg, which has a $320,000 video board with a 10-by-14-foot screen.
Locally, Smith said Stratford and Colleton County high schools both have Daktronics boards with message displays but no videos. So far, it seems that no one else is trying to top Fort Dorchester. Summerville High plans to tweak its current video board and Ashley Ridge has no plans to get a new one.
"Our booster club said, 'We think with the way Fort Dorchester football is going, we can support this,'" LaPrad said. "And I'll be darned, they did."
North Charleston loaned the money to the school's booster club, to be paid back over a six-year period, said city spokesman Ryan Johnson. Additionally, Mayor Keith Summey has gotten behind the effort and worked with the booster club to find sponsors. "He's always been very into recreation for young people, so he wants to try to boost that wherever he can," Susan Edenfield said.
Johnson said the city is "thinking outside of the box" when it comes to funding recreation projects. "Why not, instead of building separate facilities, work together?" he said, adding that the city also loaned River Oaks Middle School $1 million to build a gym.
For its part, the booster club has secured 10 of 12 main sponsors to advertise on the board, and others will have ads on the video screen, Smith said. The plan is for the sponsorships to generate revenue not only to pay for the board but to provide funding for other areas of athletics, Smith said.
"Our advertising has been ads in programs and banners on the field," Susan Edenfield said. "It is easier to get people involved in this type of advertising."
The District 2 School Board agreed Tuesday to accept the lowest bid of $24,480 to install electricity to the structure.
"It's kind of hard for us to say we're not going to pay for the electricity there when the businesses got together and teamed up and are giving the scoreboard," said board member Gail Hughes.
LaPrad said the board should be installed by early December and operators will be trained to run the cameras and the scoreboard.
The high school and area elementary schools also may use it for presentations to their student bodies, and North Charleston could hold events at the field.
"We hope to be able to promote community-type things," Susan Edenfield said. "It's a safe place to come. It would be nice to be able to show a movie under the stars."