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to blink to life late Tuesday evening or early Wednesday, officially replacing a smaller sign that was technologically outdated.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.
An initial test period, during which notices advertising the digital space will run and technicians will fine tune the sign operation, will be followed by a full launch on Sept 1.
The electronic sign is the company's first foray into digital advertising.
"This is the future of outdoor advertising," Jackson said. If we're going to continue to grow this is how to do it. I can't wait for it to get turned on."
The hope is that it will benefit local businesses, the city and local nonprofits, for whom 10 percent of the billboard's advertising time is reserved, said Tony Geraldi, general manager of Airport Express and a board member of the Rohnert Park Chamber of Commerce.
One the eve of the sign being switched on, Geraldi had twin perspectives. "As a chamber board member, it's impressive. I'm anxious to see how the quality is when it turns on," he said. "As the general manager of Airport Express, I'm hopeful that it doesn't tie up traffic."
Clear Channel Outdoors also bid for the sign contract, as did Station Casinos and the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, who are building a casino on the city's edge.