ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If you're trying to attend the home opener for powerhouse Lakewood High School Friday night, you might be out of luck.
COVID-19 forced the district to limit stadium capacity to 25 percent and the 475 seats available sold out in less than an hour.
But tonight there is another option. For the first time, every school in both Hillsborough and Pinellas will be streaming all of their games live.
“It means access,” said Pinellas County Schools Athletic Director Al Bennett. “Some people may not be able to. This gives them access to every one of their son’s or grandson’s or their friend's games. It was just perfect timing.”
Bennett says the live streaming is a partnership between the National Federation of State High School Associations’ NFHS Network and Jeff Vinik's "The Identity Tampa Bay," which paid to install the cameras at no cost to the districts
“You will actually see the whole football field and you'll see the scoreboard and the score.”
Ben Shotten, with Vinik Sports Group, helped coordinate the installation of the cameras.
“So it's two lenses on one camera set up, and we have one on the stadium and one on the gym,” Shotten said. “If I was a parent, I’d be excited.”
And it’s not just football. Volleyball games will also be streamed along with many of the other winter and spring sports later in the year.
“We're looking at over 80 cameras it's a tremendous undertaking,” Shotten said.
The secret is the complete automation of the cameras making the streaming of so many games possible.
“There are not 83 camera people to go, man, a camera,” Shotten said laughing.
Access to watch the games isn't free. It's about $10 a month for unlimited access on your smartphone or computer. But any advertising revenue goes directly to the schools, Bennett says.
“The more money we can have into our athletic programs the more we can provide to our athletes as far as equipment and uniforms that they can feel good about.”
And perhaps even more important than the revenue, the exposure for high school athletes to college coaches, scouts and recruiters virtually around the world.
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