KENT: A colorful electronic message board the city and Kent State University had talked about installing for years finally lit up this month.
The ground-level sign — 80 inches by 168 inches — greets motorists and pedestrians at Haymaker Parkway and Water Street, right at the southwestern tip of downtown’s ongoing $100 million makeover.
The cost of the sign, $92,000, was split between the city and KSU and will rotate news about events either party is sponsoring.
Suzanne Robertson, executive assistant to the city manager, has added the sign to her list of duties, accepting city and university requests, searching for announcements they might have missed, and splicing in public safety tips.
“People are very happy with it,” she said. “I can tell they are also using it.”
She said she’s confident that one of the first messages posted, about health department flu shots, helped spur an “amazing turnout.”
In his blog, City Manager Dave Ruller said the city played around with graphics, different kinds of messages and various lengths for cycling the messages until it learned the ropes.
“We’re looking to keep it simple but also professional, attractive and informative,” he said.
Items from KSU will include athletic events, speakers and school-sponsored entertainment.
The city plans to use its time for things like festivals and public meetings.
Robertson said she has tossed in public messages about buckling seat belts, the perils of texting while driving and a plea for homeowners to shovel their sidewalks.
“I try to stay between five and seven messages,” she said, including a permanent “Welcome to Kent, Ohio” in the rotation.
“When we started tossing the idea around years ago, message boards were much less common and we thought of ourselves as pioneers back then,” Ruller told residents.
The boards are not as uncommon as they used to be, “but that doesn’t diminish our enthusiasm for adding what we hope will prove to be a great way of spreading the word of the many athletic, cultural, musical, educational and otherwise fun events that Kent plays host to each week.”