Daktronics built the videoboard for the Texas Rangers’ Globe Life Field and is working on more orders. (Don Muret / Staff)

Videoboard maker stays busy with order backlog, Vegas, new RFPs

Daktronics, the biggest producer of videoboards for sports and entertainment venues, is weathering the COVID-19 storm in large part because of a three-month backlog of orders, according to 22-year company executive Jay Parker. 

There’s also new business to pursue in the big leagues, revolving around LED video displays for about a half-dozen MLS stadiums in development and a pair of NHL arenas under construction. 

Those deals can run $10 million to $15 million when packaged with ribbon boards and high-tech control rooms.

“We’re still seeing sales activity with our sports customers,” said Parker, vice president of live events and spectaculars. “Different states have different regulations, but the teams still have a deadline and want to get into that building as soon as they can, and our products are part of that.” 

“Seattle Center and Belmont Park are in the procurement phase,” he said. “RFPs are on the street. We’re just having to do business differently. Instead of having prebid meetings on site, we’re using (video) technology for presentations. Fortunately, it’s allowing us to be more connected that we would have been even five years ago.” 

Daktronics is also busy filling orders from Las Vegas casinos while those gaming entities remained closed through April. To some, it may be surprising considering the unprecedented shutdown in Sin City, but Parker said the time is right to upgrade those properties that rely heavily on video screens to promote their brands. 

“They’re wanting to make improvements while there’s no guests,” he said. “The thinking is, when we come out of this, they’ll be better and stronger. Those facilities are huge, and they could employ some people and put them in an environment where they’re not standing next to others, polish the place up and make it look good.”

DAK ON TRACK: Daktronics built the new videoboard at Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona, an MLB spring training facility. (Courtesy Daktronics)

Daktronics runs five factories in South Dakota, Minnesota, Ireland and China. All told, the company employs about 2,500 people globally, which includes 500 to 600 factory workers plus sales and support staff.

The publicly traded firm generated $570 million in revenue for fiscal year 2019, which concluded last April 27.

Daktronics plants in Redwood Falls, Minn., and Ennistymon, Ireland, were up and running after two-week shutdowns as part of stay-at-home orders in those communities. Factories in Brookings, S.D., where Daktronics is based, and Sioux Falls, S.D., remain fully operational after putting in additional protections for those workers, Parker said.

“The population is (885,000) in South Dakota with a land mass bigger than North Carolina,” he said. “Our state is relatively sparsely populated. It helps us because we can manufacture at different facilities … to keep hitting the delivery dates for these customers if we need to.”

As of late April, Daktronics had no official layoffs, Parker said. Some workers with jobs that require them to be in the field are taking vacation time and unpaid leave. 

In addition, its service technicians sit idle after Major League Baseball postponed the start of the 2020 regular season. Under normal circumstances, they would be conducting preevent checks at ballparks to ensure the electronics were working properly, he said.

The novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, first surfaced in China. Daktronics’ plant in Shanghai is at full capacity after shutting down for about a month. The closure was extended during the Chinese New Year in mid-February. 

The factory gradually reopened with employees living closest to the plant returning first while the city’s public transportation system was still shut down.

“We got 40 percent back and then were up to 100 percent,” he said. “It took three months to go from completely shut down to back up and running.”

To provide further protection for factory workers, Daktronics has sectioned plants into work zones tied to specific restrooms, lunchrooms and other break areas, to prevent overlap and potential spread of the virus if someone got infected.

“People clean their workstations before they leave at night and again before they start in the morning,” Parker said. “Because of the manufacturing process, they’re not standing next to each other. They keep (at least) 6 feet apart. In the lunch rooms, we’ve removed a lot of tables to create some distance when they’re taking breaks.”

He said, “We don’t have anybody that’s tested positive within our factories, but if we did (have someone test positive), we’d be able to close that zone down, clean it, disinfect it, and within 24 to 48 hours, determine what our next step will be. It’s only affecting part of the floor and not the plant itself.”

On his own, Parker works from home like an army of other professionals across the country. His day starts with a 7:30 a.m. conference call to discuss COVID-19 updates. It’s a departure from his typical routine, which includes lots of travel as a trade show exhibitor.

“We had a bunch of conventions in April and May that have been postponed, which is actually good because it allows (us) to move ahead on our current projects,” he said. 

Parker is among those in the industry who think sports and entertainment will bounce back quickly after it’s safe to resume attending live events. It all depends on how long the shutdown lasts, which is anybody’s guess.

“I’m biased. I’m a sports fan,” he said. “We all have our teams, whether it’s pro, college or high school. It’s about community, social activity and getting out and talking to people.”

Daktronics’ competitors include ANC, which is part of Learfield, and Samsung/Prismview. ANC officials declined to comment for this story.

Samsung is making every effort to protect the health and safety of its employees, partners and customers to minimize impact on its operations, said spokesperson Dianne LaGuardia.

 ANC, among other projects, is producing new videoboards for Live Nation’s 46 amphitheaters. Samsung is making the Oculus board for SoFi Stadium, the new $5.2 billion NFL facility in Inglewood, Calif.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated since it was originally posted. This is a longer version of the story that ran in the May 2020 issue of VenuesNow.