Published: 23 September 2013 06:45 PM
Updated: 24 September 2013 10:08 AM
FORT WORTH – The new Big Hoss TV at Texas Motor Speedway wasn’t designed to beat the Cowboys’ video board at AT&T Stadium.
That was small potatoes.
The 20,633-square-foot screen at TMS, produced by Panasonic, will dwarf them all, becoming what Texas Motor Speedway calls the world’s most gigantic high-definition screen when it is unveiled for the first NASCAR event at the venue in 2014.
The Big Hoss will be 79 percent larger than the screen in Arlington and more than 25 percent bigger than the current king of visual monstrosities, the big board at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But the biggest capital improvement the race track has ever made isn’t to get into the record books. It’s to serve customers.
“It’s not about being bigger than Charlotte Motor Speedway,” president Eddie Gossage said. “It’s not about being bigger than Cowboys Stadium. It’s about doing the best we can do for our fans. I’ll be honest with you, the first plan I laid out was much larger than this.”
“My first one was 400 feet [wide] and [chairman and chief executive officer] Bruton [Smith], looked at it and said, try again. He agreed all along that we had to be bigger than Charlotte. That’s not the bar.”
The big board has been on the drawing board for years, and Smith signed off on the idea in December. Gossage joked that track officials were waiting “for the right annual percentage rate.
Gossage declined to give a dollar figure for the board. But when AT&T Stadium opened, their screen was valued at about $40 million. It has two sides.
“The company is in a position to do it now,” he said. “I signed the biggest purchase order I’ve ever seen and shortly, I’ll sign the biggest check I’ve ever signed in my life. I negotiated the price. But when they handed me the order, I kind of gulped.”
Jeff Bentley, of Carrollton, has been attending races at TMS for more than 10 years and said the improvement is logical.
“The biggest TV should be in Texas,” Bentley said. “I’m glad it’s beating out the Cowboys. I just appreciate TMS and what they give the fans. They always try to make the experience better for the fans.”
The board, which will be on the TMS backstretch, will be 218 feet wide and 94.6 feet tall. It will weigh more than 108 tons.
Construction will begin after the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR tripleheader weekend Oct. 31-Nov. 3 and the project will be completed before the 2014 racing schedule begins in April.
The screen is not without some concerns. It will face due west, meaning the glare will have to be overcome. Gossage said that shouldn’t be a problem.
“How bright is it? The sun will set on it every day,” Gossage said. “And so it has to be bright enough that it will be visible. It’s real bright.”
The screen also is engineered to withstand 120 mph wind and is waterproof.
As with the Cowboys’ board, fans will have to concentrate to avoid watching the race on the big screen rather than on the track.
“I do have a concern that I’ll end up watching the TV more than the race,” Bentley said. “I know they have that trouble at AT&T Stadium. But it’ll enhance the experience. And we’ll get replays. There will be no problems now. We shouldn’t miss anything.”
Gossage said track leadership is discussing what to do with backstretch seating. Either an 18-by-24-foot screen will be constructed on the inside part of the backstretch for their viewing or there is a chance backstretch seating will be removed … The new video board is expected to bring in other events, such as car shows and the like. At least one other major event has already been confirmed, Gossage said.
“It has all kinds of benefits,” he Gossaage said. “There’s another event that we’re going to announce in the next month or so. And part of it is because of the Big Hoss. So there’s another event that’s already presented itself in part because of [the screen]. All kinds of events will use this screen. The one in Charlotte is on more days than it’s not.”
Schedule released: TMS once again will be the eighth race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2014, but also will tweak its schedule to accommodate the NCAA Final Four and make a variation to its annual Indy Car race.
The 2014 schedule opens with the Texas 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend April 3-6. The Nationwide Series race will be Friday, April 4. The Sprint Cup race will be Sunday afternoon, April 6 to avoid a conflict with the NCAA semifinals at AT&T Stadium on April 5.
After runningon Saturday evening the last three years, this is expected to be a one-time shift to Sunday afternoon.
On June 5-7, the track will host the NASCAR/INDYCAR doubleheader with the Camping World Truck Series Winstar World Casino and Resort 400 on June 6, followed by the Firestone 600 IndyCar Series race, which will be extended 50 kilometers from 2013.
From Oct. 30 to Nov. 2, TMS will have the eighth race in the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup. The AAA Texas 500 will run Nov. 2, with O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge race on Nov. 1 and the Camping World Truck Series racing on Oct. 31.
Briefly: TMS will be better served by more than $33 million in road improvements in and around the facility. Of that, $18 million will be used for widening Highway 114.
Follow Eddie Sefko on Twitter at @ESefko.
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