This past April, the West Fargo High School, with assistance from the Packer Backers and a number of sponsors, installed a new, 8-foot by 9-foot state-of-the-art video board above the south gym entrance in the gym. It is the first of its kind in a North Dakota high school gym.
After a full semester, the possibilities of its use - ranging from athletic to educational - are seemingly endless.
"We've had a big push, nationwide and at the state level, to prepare students for the 21st Century," journalism teacher Jeremy Murphy said. "This is a really cool opportunity for them to practice real-world technical skills in a real-world atmosphere. This is technology that isn't available at any other school in the area."
Murphy began teaching a class dedicated to running the board at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. Since it was a new class that no one was familiar with, only a small number of students enrolled. However, Murphy has said that several students have inquired about taking it next semester.
"Part of the goal was not just to have an athletic piece of equipment," said Todd Warner, treasurer of the Packer Backers. "The students in the class run the board, and they deal with the advertising."
"It's a great opportunity for the kids," Murphy said. "That's why I wanted to get this program off the ground. It gives the kids an advantage when they leave here, and that's my primary objective. My philosophy is letting students leave here with an advantage, so they are able to go somewhere and have this experience that they can hopefully build on at the next level, whatever that might be."
The board cost just over $63,000. Moore Engineering and First International Bank each donated $25,000 and the Packer Backers managed to raise the rest.
"We wanted to update our scoreboards and (the Packer Backers) went out looking for sponsors," Athletic Director Curt Jones said. "They wanted something different that would make us stand out from other schools. It is a revenue generator for both sides."
So far, the board has been used for live statistics and introductory videos before wrestling meets, volleyball games and dance invitationals.
"I know the parents have really enjoyed it," Jones said. "I've been getting a lot of questions."
In the future, Murphy and his class plan to use it for replays and as a "Fan Cam" during sporting events. They will also use it for other non-athletic events in the gym, such as pep rallies, award ceremonies, and other student gatherings.
"It's a little bit of work now, but I think it will be really efficient down the road," said Al Hogenson, vice president of the Packer Backers. We've talked about eventually using it for replays of certain things, especially if there are breaks in the action."
On top of all that, they have also been steaming sporting event online. They can be watched by visiting the high school's activities page and clicking the "WF Packer TV" link.
The board was tested out at Prom 2012, just two weeks after it was installed, and was met with positive feedback.
"Everyone could see," Warner said. "They would focus in where the couples come in and pose. It worked out really well."
According to Hogenson, depending on how the school wishes to use it, the video board could be an "ever-evolving" process for them.
"Our goal is to help kids with whatever they want to do" Hogenson said. "The curricular side of this is awesome. It's a great experience for them. Kids that want to get into this can deal with state-of-the-art technology for free. It gives them another avenue for their future."
The Packer Backers will hold a ceremony at halftime of the Packer boys' basketball game on Friday to show their gratitude for the sponsors of the video board.
The Packer Backers are a group of volunteer parents and fans dedicated to supporting, encouraging and generally assisting athletic, speech, drama and other programs and events at West Fargo High School. Those interested in joining the Packer Backers can do so by contacting Curt Jones, or by filling out the form found by clicking the "Packer Packers" link on the high school's activities page.