Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Take a journey to 1992, a heady year with change in the air. The Winter and Summer Olympics loomed large, (it would be the last time both games were held in the same year), silicon valley giants were rolling out revolutionary technological changes as the 'world wide web' (aka the internet) prepared to go public, social unrest reached a new peak in the US, the cold war was officially declared over, the EU opened its horizons to the rest of the continent, pop artists were wearing clothes backwards, and US presidential power was about to change sides. Thus was the year that ushered in the Newport International Polo Series.
With the arrival of spring, clocks were turned ahead for daylight savings time in March of 1992, just as they had been since 1918, and every year of Dan Keating's life, but perhaps never had the extra hour of daylight been more appreciated than that year, for his work in progress at Glen Farm to inaugurate the Newport International Polo Series that summer.
The much-awaited ground thaw allowed for site work to begin on a 30-acre parcel on the south side of Glen Farm's linden-canopied entry drive, where a humble hay field that later became the Jumping Derby grounds, was to be rededicated to serve as a new exhibition polo field, complete with all manner of necessary improvements to welcome the fascination of a public audience, most importantly a scoreboard.
At most polo matches around the world to this day, even at the most prominent matches like the Argentine Open, the scoreboard is the only source of vital information, for players, support staff, and spectators alike, to be able to follow the progress of the game as it plays out over a vast area, in time-limited periods. (Photo: Inaugural scoreboard seen behind Newport's Aram Shefrin and Dan Keating defending home turf against Mike Andrews, #4 for Down East.)
No different than in the past millennia of the game, the typical polo scoreboard in 1992, even at the best polo facilities was nothing more than a well-positioned and amply-proportioned billboard, on which the team colors would be temporarily displayed, or, on first-rate models, permanent lettering was painted on, to identify the HOME and VISITOR scores. Frantic, manual swapping of numbered plates to show the changing score in the real time of a polo match was part of the charm of the game. Locally, the cherished scoreboard on the 'green monster’ at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, still operates manually, as a nuance of that game.
The scale and location of Keating’s scoreboard were elementary, taking into account where future spectators might be seated, for optimum visibility, leaving the east end, which was too low, and the west end - being high and dry and easy to service – to become the anointed spot where 6 foot holes were hand-dug, 16 feet apart, to install two 28 foot utility poles of 650lbs each, that served as the scoreboard's piers, with an estimated service life of 30-40 years. Leaving room at the top of the poles for future expansion, a signboard stretched across the midsection, with ‘Newport International Polo Series’ lettering, above a large wooden cutout of the Polo Series’ heritage logo, with HOME and VISITOR scores hung on either side by eager new staff when the scoreboard was christened that summer, during the thrilling inaugural season in 1992.
Expansion came in 2004, with the addition of a 16 foot wide electronic panel featuring illuminated scores, chukkers, timer and buzzer, adding the fourth dimension – time - to the excitement and urgency of the competition. With dynamic scorekeeping and timing, the Newport Polo experience made a paradigm shift, but technicians were not so dynamic, especially on Saturdays, leaving Keating suspended by his rock-climbing equipment to repair glitches on Gameday to ensure these new standards, before leaping into the saddle to charge his team onto the field!
With its back to the prevailing SW winds of the yearly hurricane season, the scoreboard withstood nearly every force that bore down on it for the next 26 years, save two gales that brought out Keating and his emergency crew to restore Game conditions in what little time Mother Nature allowed before the next Saturday match.
By 2016, Keating had the 12-year itch again, and began to explore the emerging outdoor LED screen technology and video medium. After two years of research and planning for the big one, he and his field crew broke ground in 2018 on the present day Jumbotron, the first of its kind in the polo world, and largest video display in New England at the time, outside of Gillette Stadium.
During the hot but necessarily driest summer months, the crew excavated, welded, hoisted, assembled, painted and trained with manufacturer reps. The project required massive excavation to anchor its 4 base plates of 600lbs each, into 300 tons of concrete below grade, to support an 8-ton steel superstructure and 30’ x 40’ Jumbotron video wall, that is able to withstand wind force of 144 mph. With fiber optic cables connected, the Jumbotron was officially christened on Saturday, August 4, 2018, for USA vs. Morocco (and blessed by Zeus himself with a lightning bolt two weeks later during USA vs. Jamaica). Click to relive the ribbon cutting video shown that day!
The Jumbotron was envisioned to heighten the experience at the polo matches, for a greater understanding of the game as it progresses, bringing distant action closer, instant replays of key moments, rules animations, player stats and most of all, introduce the ponies so that everyone could share the appreciation for these athletes as much as the players value them, in entertainment through today's most popular medium.
Cosmic forces brought a team of professional sports videography & documentary film makers (BCN Productions) to produce what would become an award-winning documentary of the Polo Series’ 25th anniversary season in 2016 (Sacred Ground, DVD and Trailer). That same team of professionals make up the 4–5 member veteran video production team that create the multi-camera Jumbotron programming each Saturday, since its launch.
This year, the new Brenton Hotel in downtown Newport will unfurl its banner on the Jumbotron, sponsoring the continued development of this asset, greeting polo fans with world-class hospitality.
In its preeminent position, the Jumbotron remains a signature feature at the polo venue that is recognized world-wide, not only as a monument of state-of-the-art technology, but also as the Newport Polo standard, to bear the Brenton Hotel insignia in an alliance with the Polo Series for seasons to come.
Time Machine is a 30th Anniversary retrospective series of monthly chapters. We hope you enjoyed the trip in time to March of 1992, our inaugural year. To read additional Time Machine chapters published this year, visit Headlines.
A limited number of promotional messaging opportunities are available on the Jumbotron with Sponsorship positions. For more information contact: email@example.com