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Inventor Betting His First Down Laser Will Come To Stadiums

Wednesday, 15 Dec 2010 | 3:35 PM ET

For about 12 years now, we’ve gotten used to watching the virtual yellow line, which of course signifies where on the field the first down is. It’s one of the things that people who go to the game really miss.

My question is, why do we have to miss it? If our world came up with the virtual technology, can’t it come up with a real line on the field that the players won’t trip over?

Inventor Alan Amron has been working on a solution for the better part of this decade. He has four patents for his First Down Laser System, which shoots a six-inch wide green laser beam across the field that can be seen on both television and in the stadium, and has partnered with veteran player and announcer Pat Summerall.

So why haven’t you seen it yet?

Well, he met with the NFL all the way back in 2003 and has been working on refining it ever since. When Amron met with the league seven years ago, his green line was going to be shown thanks to projectors in stadiums mounted to light fixtures. That cost $300,000 per stadium. Amron’s latest product is mounted to the bottom of the markers themselves, which has reduced the cost to about $100,000 per stick set.

He’s currently working on getting approval from the FDA to make sure the laser complies with regulatory standards and he says he has already talked to the NFL about testing his product in a preseason game next year.

first down laser flags
Photo credit: thought development
first down laser flags

Amron says he told the league his invention could actually save the league and television networks hundreds of millions of dollars each year in potential advertising revenue. After all, if the line is accurate, the chain gang won’t ever have to trot out.

“We estimate that the referees measure for a first down at least once per game, which is at the very least a minute and half,” Amron said. “We looked at how much that was worth from preseason through the Super Bowl in advertising time and we came up with $325 million.”

Amron said the NFL is concerned that players exposure to the laser, but he says that since the beam is slightly off the ground a player would have to fall on the ground and look to the side and up in order to get a direct laser hit that could lead to eye damage.

Amron says he’s confident his final product will be able to enhance the game experience for those fans watching in the stadium – the league is more concerned with that than ever before —and will be safe for the players as well.

As for the critics who says true fans should know where the first down marker is?

Said Amron: “How many times do we see players that don’t even know where it is when trying to get a first down?”

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com

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