BELGRADE — Belgrade High School unveiled its new $200,000 Daktronics video board during its homecoming football game on Sept. 15.
The idea of installing a new video board garnered some movement about three years ago but was quickly tabled due to the price tag.
"Our school was a little worried. They didn’t want to put this bill on the taxpayers, which is 100% right," Belgrade track and field coach Scott Palmer said. "So, they said find a way to fund it without using taxpayer money, and then here we are."
Fred Cornforth, a Belgrade High graduate from the Class of 1978, put forth the sum to fund the new video board.
Belgrade athletic director Toby Robinson reflected on the phone call when Cornforth first offered his help.
"He asked me, 'Do you have a project I can help out with financially?' I want to give back to my school that made me the man I am,'" Robinson recalled. "And I said, 'Do I? I sure do have a project!'"
For an athletic director, it’s a level of generosity you don’t come by every day. Because of Cornforth, this project's funding went from happening over the course of three years to being finished in 30 minutes.
Cornforth originally wanted to stay anonymous, but he eventually came forward as the donor. He also didn’t want his name on it. Instead, the video board commemorates Bill Green, Cornforth's former football coach and athletic director at Belgrade.
Green was a local legend when it came to the game. He coached the Belgrade football to three state title appearances and won it all in 1977 and 1978.
"It’s like a dream come true," Robinson said. "It’s kind of like when you think about what I am going to do with the lottery when I get it? Am I going to buy a house, buy a boat? Here it was, you know, gosh, if we only had someone that would want to step up and help us pay for something, that’d be great, and there it was."
Eventually, the school will add the capabilities of instant replay and an attached sound system.
Football won't be the only sport to use it. Track and field can also post results in real time during meets and utilize its features. But it’s a piece of equipment not just for sports, but for the community.
"There’s more than just two teams that are going to be able to benefit from it. It could be a community thing," Palmer said. "We talked about graduation being able to be an outdoor venue rather than be indoor. And so, be able to utilize it in different aspects."
The old scoreboard still resides on the opposite end of the field, something the school knew they wanted to preserve when finding a home for the new video board.
"We didn’t want that to get pulled out," Palmer explained. "There’s a lot of history and heritage that comes with that. And so we thought, if we have them on opposing corners, we can still utilize them both throughout the game."
It took an effort from the entire community to put in this piece of equipment. The total cost to install it would’ve been $80,000, an amount the school didn't have to raise a dime for.
It was all donated by sponsors — down to the paint — and they installed the video board in just two short months.
"All of the sponsors that you see rolling around on the board up here, that’s how we honor them," Robinson said. "They came out and they stepped up. You know, we had 37-foot beams that go 17 feet in the ground. I can’t do that with a shovel. So they came out, and they did it all. Rocky Mountain Electric came in and wired everything in. We had painters donate their time. Just on and on and on of our community. It got to a point where I thought I was dreaming."
Fans can see the scoreboard in action on Friday when Belgrade football hosts Billings Senior.