Fans attending the Miami Dolphins-New Orleans Saints exhibition game Aug. 27 at Memorial Stadium won't see instant replays on the ballpark's Diamond Vision scoreboard. That's because yesterday, a giant yellow crane arrived to dismantle the screen and haul it away.
It was an unsentimental finale for the video scoreboard, a fixture since 1985.
But its financing was complicated. And, in the end, that forced the decision to dismantle and remove the screen.
The city had been paying for the video screen since 1985 in twice-a-year installments of $220,000 each -- a cost covered by advertising revenue.
But with the Orioles settled into Oriole Park at Camden Yards, there's not a market for advertising at Memorial Stadium. The semiannual payments, however, still had to be paid until June 1995 to a bank in Pennsylvania, which had assumed the debt from Diamond Vision.
For months, the city, Diamond Vision and the Maryland Stadium Authority discussed what to do about the scoreboard and its cost. There were several options. The city (or the stadium authority) could buy the board outright for $1,131,828; continue paying $440,000 a year; or let Diamond Vision reclaim the screen on behalf of the bank.
In April, Diamond Vision officials chose the last option. Yesterday, the crane arrived to begin dismantling the scoreboard.
"It seems to be the best decision for all involved," said Herbert J. Belgrad, stadium authority chairman.
And what of the sold-out NFL exhibition game?
"It's a very simple answer," Belgrad said. "That Diamond Vision was installed after the Colts left. We have never had NFL football with Diamond Vision. We will still have a scoreboard operating in Memorial Stadium. We just won't have Diamond Vision for a single game. We won't rent one for one game. It's not a sensible use of dollars."
And should the city win an NFL expansion franchise, a video scoreboard could be leased for a year or two while the team plays at Memorial Stadium before moving to a new stadium, Belgrad said.
"All the parties have come out ahead, and the fans won't be disadvantaged," he said.