Local employees win big in Athens

Tara Halbritter

Tara Halbritter

While you will not find the company’s name on the over 40 displays set up at the Olympics this year, Daktronics has most definitely been turning heads in the corporate world.

Daktronics, a Brookings-based LED sign company, was hired as a subcontractor and supplier to The Swatch Group, based in Switzerland, for the Olympics. The company was responsible for providing equipment and support personnel to operate and maintain scoreboards and signs for the 2004 Olympics and Paralympics in Athens, Greece.

Landing colossal projects such as the Olympics, while not a new accomplishment for Daktronics, is still exciting for a Brookings, S.D., business.

“People are amazed to discover that products seen throughout the world come from a small community in South Dakota,” said Scott Hartman. Hartman, a 1996 graduate of SDSU who lives in Sioux Falls, operated displays at the archery, marathon and triathlon events.

Because of prior experience with Swatch, Daktronics was able to win the bid to supply the signs to the Olympics. Seth Hansen explained that Daktronics provided a bid proposal to Swatch stating they would provide equipment and services based on their specifications.

“Our past Olympic history with Swatch has also been helpful,” said Hansen.

Under the contract with Swatch, Daktronics was unable to receive official recognition for its work. Swatch compensated Daktronics for the title rights on the displays, as it has in the past Olympics projects.

Daktronics performed several types of services while in Athens, including installation supervision of the displays, display operation and maintenance, and training of Greek volunteer operators. These volunteers were trained to type Greek text messages on the displays.

In order to select employees to travel to Greece, Daktronics solicited applications from interested personnel within the company. The employees were asked to explain why they wanted to participate in the project and to describe experience they had in operating equipment at high-profile events.

Steve Gokie, a 1997 graduate of SDSU, was chosen to perform various tasks at the games this year. He served as a “rover,” specializing in an array of areas. He was involved in the installation process, technical support, and software and mechanical support. Past projects Gokie has taken part in include the Olympics in Salt Lake City and the Goodwill Games.

Karen Wanderscheid was another Daktronics employee selected to work in Athens. Her primary duty at this year’s games was operating the display at the diving events.

“Working at the Olympics was a great opportunity,” said Wanderscheid.

Wanderscheid, who currently lives in Sioux Falls, works in the Keyframe Services department at Daktronics. She is a 2003 graduate of Augustana College.

Daktronics supplied displays for nearly all of the venues at the 2004 Olympics, with the exception of shooting, sailing, weightlifting, and fencing.

Hansen said employees worked to provide the best possible quality of service and didn’t find much time for watching events.

“Depending on the sport, most employees were fully consumed by their role in operating the displays,” Hansen said.