Argyle company in thick of Final Four

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Michael Ainsworth/The Dallas Morning News
Chris Curtis, CEO of GoVision, stands with giant screens being tested for the NCAA men’s Final Four at AT&T Stadium. The screens will go under the large screen and would help people closer to the court to be able to see a monitor.
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Chris Curtis stood on the floor of AT&T Stadium recently and watched as his team tested large-scale LED video boards before they were hoisted into place beneath Jerrytron.

The screens are playing a major role in the Final Four tournament at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The teams and people on the floor and in the first 22 rows can’t see Jerrytron. So GoVision created a giant mini-me — no apologies for the oxymoron.

“It looks so tiny under Jerrytron,” says Curtis, the 52-year-old CEO of Argyle-based GoVision. “We put this same configuration in other arenas and it looks huge. It’s about the same size as the screens in American Airlines Center.”

The four-board setup was used in a dry run at the NCAA regionals here last year and was ready for the real deal.

“Our permanent board does dwarf it considerably,” says Brett Daniels, a spokesman for the Dallas Cowboys. “But to those fans sitting down close to the action court-side — particularly for the coaches and the teams on the bench — it’s valuable to be able to keep up with the scores, stats and game clocks.”

The screens suspended over center court are just a few of GoVision’s assignments at eight venues around Dallas-Fort Worth during the Final Four. The company is also providing LED ribbon signs under the scorer’s table, shot clocks and a fleet of video boards outside the stadium for the Tip-off Tailgate Party.

“Our gee-whiz is we’ll have about 8,000 square feet of LED screen — more than 11.5 million pixels — hanging around town,” Curtis says. “Ten years ago, that much temporary screen didn’t exist in the country.”

The 12-year-old company is a high-impact player in the portable big-screen world, despite its relatively small size.

Leading into the Final Four, GoVision provided video boards and production services at the NHL Winter Classic in Ann Arbor, Mich., the NFL’s Super Bowl Tailgate in New Jersey, outside the New Orleans Arena at the NBA All-Star Game and earlier rounds of the NCAA tournament.

“We worked with three of the four major sports in a month’s time,” says Curtis, who owns GoVision with a small group of investors. “That helped bring in more than $1 million. That’s normal. But this thing is about to explode. March will be the best month that we’ve ever had, followed by April, which will be even bigger. We’re on trajectory to have about 50 percent growth over 2013, with sales approaching $15 million.”

GoVision also provided screens and production services for the three-day March Madness Music Festival, which is being headlined by Bruce Springsteen, Tim McGraw and Jason Aldean at Reunion Park.

GoVision’s relationship with the music festival, put on by the NCAA and Turner Live Events, began as a small gig in 2008.

“It started as a big block party,” says Curtis. “Kid Rock was the headliner. A little-known star, Taylor Swift, was the warm-up. Now it’s the centerpiece of the Final Four. You don’t see Bruce Springsteen for free very often.”

Each day was being sponsored by a different NCAA corporate partner — AT&T was on Friday, Coca-Cola on Saturday and Capital One today.

“We’ve really upped our game,” Curtis says. “We staff it 24/7. The production side of that is huge for us.”

All told, there will be 55 GoVisioneers working the local events.

Contract with NCAA

The screens inside AT&T Stadium and at the music festival are part of a contract that runs through 2016 with the NCAA for the basketball tournament. The NCAA says it does not comment about its relationship with vendors.

Daniels says Curtis landed the NCAA deal without any help from the Cowboys.

“The NCAA’s decision to use GoVision is completely theirs, based on work that Chris has done across the country at major sporting events, including past Final Fours,” Daniels says. “Chris understands how this technology can enhance the fan experience, be it concerts down at Reunion Park or here at the venue.”

GoVision owns most of the equipment it deploys. But it leased some screens from other video-screen companies to handle the unusual weekend. It has a dozen other assignments around the U.S., including the NCAA women’s Final Four in Nashville, the PGA Shell Houston Open, the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship in Palm Springs and NASCAR Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway.

And let’s not overlook Chilifest in Snook, Texas.

Linked like Legos

GoVision’s screens are put together with 2-foot-by-2-foot LED units that are linked like Legos.

The pieces used last month as a 300-foot ribbon board at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee headed immediately afterward to Indianapolis, where they were reconfigured into a screen at the basketball regionals this weekend. It then moved to the plaza outside AT&T Stadium.

“All of our equipment is weatherproof,” Curtis says. But sometimes, it’s not the weather that causes trouble.

“A few years ago at the NHL Winter Classic in Calgary, we were really worried about the cold because it was 20 below,” Curtis recalls. “The equipment was working fine, but then we had an equipment failure because the control tent had gotten too hot from all the equipment churning out heat.”

Curtis is certain there won’t be a replay of that here.

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