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Alumnus Craig Pohlman Keeps Fans in the Game at Phoenix Sporting Events
April 6, 2016
Keeping Score: Craig Pohlman, a 2000 computer science alumnus, is lead electronics matrix graphics operator and programmer at Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of several Phoenix, Arizona professional sports teams. He recently displayed Rose-Hulman’s athletics logo on signage throughout the arena. (Photo by Barry Gossage)
Craig Pohlman has never made a basket, hit a home run, or scored a touchdown in professional sports. However, he plays a key role in enhancing the fan experience for those sports as lead operator and programmer for electronic scoreboards at several Phoenix, Arizona-area arenas and stadiums.
Along the way, the 2000 computer science alumnus has earned three WNBA championship rings, created graphics for the World Series champion Kansas City Royals, and helped comedian/actor Will Ferrell be introduced for his hilarious major-league baseball debut.
"Getting paid to have fun and do what you love is a dream come true," says Pohlman, a lead software engineer for Hyperion Works in Phoenix.
Pohlman spends many nights and weekends at the controls of hundreds of graphics that keep fans informed and entertained at Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns (NBA), Phoenix Mercury (WNBA), Arizona Rattlers (Arena Football League), and many special events. He worked at the NBA All-Star Game in 2009 and has spent the past two years at Hohokam Stadium (Mesa, Arizona), spring training home for the Oakland Athletics (MLB), with the largest scoreboard of all spring training facilities.
At the click of each keyboard button, Pohlman shows the correct graphics to coincide with each scored basket, timeout entertainment, or other corporate- or team-sponsored activity.
“We’re striving to get the best response from the crowd and to keep them engaged. The difference in picking the correct graphic for a given situation can help improve the home-court advantage and, hopefully, lead to the team winning a close game,” he says.
One of Pohlman’s favorite funny moments came when a NBA player had lost a contact lens in the middle of a Phoenix Suns’ game. As players and staff members crawled across the court searching for the missing item, Pohlman activated a pre-recorded animation of himself playing Solitaire on a personal computer. The crowd erupted in laughter.
“Everyone thought I was actually playing Solitaire live on the main scoreboard,” Pohlman remarks. “I suppose now it would have to be Candy Crush or TwoDots, to keep it a bit more current.”
Pohlman is always looking for new ways to utilize his computer programming skills in the sports entertainment business. His company, Grand Canyon Productions, is currently developing social-media integration platforms in hopes of further revolutionizing the game-watching experience in stadiums throughout America. Testing is scheduled to begin this summer on a proposed concept that would allow fans to use a smartphone application to send Tweets, Instagram images, and other messages for viewing on stadium scoreboards and interactive displays.
“This could bring the venue experience to a whole new level,” he says.
Pohlman’s interest in scoreboard programming started at Rose-Hulman when he saw a small electronic message center across the top of the scoreboard in Hulbert Arena of the new Sports and Recreation Center. He joined audio control operator Brian Rodgers, a 1999 computer science graduate, in receiving the athletic department’s Jess Lucas Spirit Award in 1998.