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The installation crew was busy assembling the giant video screen at the south end of the Cominco Arena on Wednesday. The screen, 19-feet wide and 10-feet high, will provide live action, replays, player features and advertising during the Trail Smoke Eater games next season. (Guy Bertrand photo)

By Guy Bertrand, Trail Times Editor

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The Trail Smoke Eaters organization is hoping the latest six-figure addition to the rink will add even more excitement to game nights.

This week crews are installing a giant video screen on the south wall of the Cominco Arena that is expected to bring fans even closer to the action.

A series of LED panels have been installed to create a screen 19-feet wide and 10-feet high. Add to that the installation, the new electronics to operate the board and the video cameras around the rink and the price tag hits close to $200,000.

“It is absolutely 100 per cent crucial for our organization to provide a spectacular, inter-active night out for the local communities,” said team owner Rich Murphy. “In this day and age it’s crucial to have this type of inter-active video board, to basically get Millennials into the mix. Without them, it’ll be very difficult to survive.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is for us to do our job, not just provide a hockey game, but provide a night out for our fans.”

In addition to the giant video screen, four cameras will be providing viewpoints for the fans.

Two fixed cameras will be located above the penalty box allowing fans to see a wide-angle shot of the action or a close-up of the play around the puck. Two hand-held cameras will be located at both ends of the rink to give fans a complete look at the game.

Steve Robinson, operations manager for the Smokies, said the cameras will allow fans to see action all over the ice on the big screen.

He said in some spots of the rink, fans had a hard time seeing the action in certain corners or even at the other end. The video screen, with its high definition picture, will bring that all into a clear focus.

“They will have a high-def visual of everything that’s going on,” said Robinson.

“We used to have a replay (with the old video scoreboard) with the one angle but now we can show different angles.”

He added the new system would allow the rink to produce video replays for officials should the BCHL adopt that policy for its games. Penticton has already experimented with video reviews during a few games last season but so far no word on a league-wide decision.

And the screen won’t be limited to the action between the whistles.

The goal is to provide a full entertainment package for the paying customer, said Robinson.

“There will be pre-game stuff for people who come to the rink early, featuring interviews with players and stuff like that.”

The hockey fans won’t be the only ones benefiting from the latest addition to the Cominco Arena.

Robinson said the Smokies will work with the City of Trail to make it available for other events like graduation or Silver City Days.

But the bottom line is also to help generate some extra revenue to make the venture worthwhile.

And that’s where sponsorship deals come in with businesses being promoted on the screen for in-game moments like power plays, said Allison McCarthy, the team’s sales and event manager.

“We hope people look at it and see it as a great opportunity to get up there and promote their business,” added Robinson.

The video screen is expected to be operational this week but the full capabilities won’t be ready until the work is complete in the media booth above the players’ benches.

It’s just one of a series of on-going improvements to the facility since the Murphy family purchased the team last fall.

“The Trail Smoke Eaters and the Murphy family have a significant six-figure investment in this video screen and the infrastructure involved with the screen itself,” added Murphy. “As well, with the purchase of the team, renovations to the corporate office, the weight room, the players’ lounge, the new dressing rooms, the new bathrooms and showers, the new coaches’ office and training room, we have a healthy investment north of $1.8 million.”

Meanwhile the team’s early bird ticket sales wrapped up on May 31 and McCarthy said 620 season tickets have been sold for the upcoming season as the club approaches its goal of 750 season tickets for the start of the season.

For more information on ticket packages contact the Trail Smoke Eaters hockey club.