Mega freeway digital sign going live in Rohnert Park

  • A new electric sign looms over Highway 101 in Rohnert Park.

    (Christopher Chung/ The Press Democrat)

A 50-foot-high digital billboard alongside Highway 101 in Rohnert Park was set to blink to life late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday, officially replacing a smaller sign that was technologically outdated.

"We're really excited," said Tom Jackson, general manager of Veale Investment Properties. The Santa Rosa outdoor advertising firm built and operates the billboard on city property, and leases it from the City Hall for $180,000 a year plus 20 percent of all revenues over $900,000.

The sign, including its sloping pedestal, is 10 feet taller than the old one, which was built in 2002. And the 14-feet high, 48-feet wide screen is eye-openingly larger than the former, which was 11-feet high and 14-feet wide. At 672 square feet, it's nearly four and a half times larger than its predecessor.

Rohnert Park councilmembers who approved the sign at State Farm Drive and Commerce Boulevard, a few feet south of the old one, said they have been surprised by how large it is.

"It's like anything, you can see something in the plans, but when you see it in real life — it does look a lot bigger that I anticipated; I won't lie," Councilwoman Gina Belforte said.

"It looks a whole lot bigger when you see it standing there," said Councilman Amy Ahanotu. But, he added, "So far, I'm happy with what I see."

The deal negotiated by the city included provisions that local businesses are guaranteed first shot at 20 percent of advertising time and get discounts ranging from 15 percent to 25 percent. The contract also prohibits a single business from renting more than 30 percent of the sign's time in a month.

The company owner, Kirk Veale, called the deal a "win-win-win."

"There is a good place for government and businesses in the community to work in harmony. This is an example," Veale said.

"Rohnert Park chose a local business person to run the sign, but more importantly, they were focused on how it will benefit the local businesses. I thought that was brilliant," he said.

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