The Palestra will be available in HD this fall.
Before the start of next basketball season, the outdated Palestra scoreboards will be replaced by two new boards in a setup similar to the current board locations. A 30-foot high-definition videoboard will be situated on the eastern end of the gym facing the student section. According to Athletic Director Steve Bilsky, it will be more of a focal point than the new scoreboard to be installed behind the students, which will primarily display statistical information rather than video features. The arena will also feature a new sound system in addition to its scoreboard upgrades.
“We’ve been thinking about [new scoreboards] for years,” Bilsky said. “It all wraps into wanting to make the Palestra a special place.”
What Bilsky is hoping could make the Palestra more ideal for nonathletic events in the future is its new videoboard attraction.
“It has the possibility to entertain,” Bilsky said. “You’d have a 30-foot screen in high-definition, so it’d be like watching a movie. You could basically do movie nights. If Penn were playing in the NCAA Tournament, you could televise it in the arena. Then you consider the fact that the Palestra is our largest site on campus, so you can do almost anything you want with it.”
Nonetheless, introducing the bells and whistles of modern technology into the historic atmosphere of the Palestra is a move that may make many of the arena’s fans wary. Although Bilsky’s 2000 Palestra concourse renovation eventually proved to be a popular decision, many objected then that the project somehow tampered with the essence of the arena. Eleven years later, Bilsky is still claiming that, when not doubling as a movie theater, the Palestra will continue to be the Palestra.
“I’m not interested in some of the newer technology that has hands clapping and signs that say ‘applause,’” Bilsky said. “It won’t look like a pro scoreboard, even though it has that kind of capability. It will be more conducive to what people who go to games at the Palestra want to see.”
“I think it’d be very hard to take away from the charisma of that place,” senior guard Zack Rosen said of the Palestra. “I think the boards could add just a little more connection, but I don’t think they would take anything away.”
The arena’s new video capabilities could help decide the outcome of games.
“Maybe refs could review a play using the video technology, so that could be a benefit,” Rosen suggested.
Bilsky is also quick to point out that the new boards could add to the Palestra’s history rather than detract from it.
“If we had a player on the team score 1,000 points or pass somebody for the number of points they’ve scored in their career, and we can anticipate that in advance, we might have some video highlights of that player back in his day,” Bilsky said.
But although the potential uses for the boards seem endless now, only time will tell how quickly Quaker fans reconcile the state-of-the-art boards with the Palestra’s classic aura.
“It’s like having a big new toy,” Bilsky said. “As you become more comfortable with it, you’re able to do more and more.”