I-8 billboard gets a makeover

by Jamie Ballard, News Editor

The billboard alongside Interstate 8 by the San Diego State campus is currently being updated to include a more advanced electronic system.

SDSU media relations manager Beth Chee said the new billboard will have LED lighting, a more advanced software system and some cosmetic updates that will “make the sign look more like part of campus.”

The new lighting is more energy efficient and is ideally meant to make the sign easier to view during the day. The updated software system is compatible with other electronic signage on campus, meaning the same message can be displayed on multiple signs at once from a central location. Additionally, it ties in with the Amber Alert system. In the past, the Amber Alerts have been posted to the marquee manually.

The cosmetic changes to the sign are meant to match the overall look of the SDSU campus. The top is being updated to reflect the mission-style architecture and the color is being changed from black to “balsa,” which is one of the official campus colors.

The total cost of the overhaul of the freeway sign is $550,000, with $500,000 coming from a one-time allocation from the university operating fund and $50,000 from Associated Students.

“I think the changes to the sign will be an improvement,” public health junior Jessica Adams said. “It’ll make our school look more uniform and up-to-date.”

Chee said the changes were made because the electronics had become outdated and needed to be replaced. Barring more rain, she said the project should be completed by Jan. 22.

The sign has a contentious history dating back to 1998. It cost approximately $380,000 to build and was funded by advertisers at Cox Arena (which was changed to Viejas Arena in 2009). The bright lights and large size led people to remark it would be better suited to a casino than a university.

A 2001 Daily Aztec article reads, “The University Senate passed a resolution saying the sign was ‘inappropriate and contrary to the community responsibilities of an academic institution.’ Columnist Logan Jenkins from the San Diego Union-Tribune called it a ‘classless horror show’ and a ‘toxic red-and-black toadstool.’ And it was voted ‘Worst Eyesore’ by San Diego Magazine.”

The sign also received the dubious honor of an “Onion” award in the Orchids and Onions Awards, which recognizes the best and worst architecture in San Diego. While other buildings on campus, such as the Aztec Student Union, have been nominated to receive an “Orchid” award, the sign was thought to be an “Onion.”

Judges wrote, “To your right is San Diego State, in case anyone missed it. We keep expecting to see the glitzy marquee flash: Loosest slots in town! Siegfried and Roy at the Aztec Bowl! All night buffet just $3.99! San Diego State will never suffer an identity crisis again, but this sign certainly is contributing to an electricity crisis.”

It remains to be seen if the new changes to the freeway marquee will be better received by San Diego residents.