Colosseo USA, a company that specializes in turn-key technology solutions applied at sports venues, has filed a lawsuit against the University of Cincinnati.
The lawsuit is in response to how the school handled its selection of a new scoreboard vendor for Nippert Stadium.
“Colosseo seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against UC arising out of UC's failure to abide by its own Request for Proposal process, its failure to follow Ohio's pertinent public bidding statutes and its failure to follow the Rules established by UC's Board of Trustees,” reads a copy of the lawsuit obtained by The News Record.
In summer 2016, UC expressed its intent to negotiate exclusively with Colosseo, but later chose to open the bidding process up to the public, the lawsuit alleges. After a competitive bidding process, the school awarded Daktronics — a company which specializes in electronic scoreboards, programmable display systems and large screen video displays — with the Nippert Stadium scoreboard project.
Despite filing the suit, Colosseo is not demanding monetary relief, but is instead demanding a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction and a permanent injunction. These measures would prevent UC from working on the Nippert Stadium scoreboard project, among others, with contractors other than Colosseo, the lawsuit claims.
“After experiencing blatant manipulations during the selection process for Nippert Stadium tech upgrades, we have decided to step up and protect the interests of Bearcats fans,” said Joseph Bocko, president and CEO of Colosseo USA. “Our ultimate goal is to achieve that UC leadership demands the quality that was awarded and for UC to request Daktronics to replace its inferior LED board.”
Citing the stage of the legal process, UC spokesman Gregory Vehr and sports information director Ryan Koslen declined to comment.
UC failed to follow Ohio’s pertinent public bidding statutes
On Feb. 24, 2017, UC issued an Integrated System Request for Proposal (RFP) — a document which highlighted key items the school was seeking when selecting a vendor.
The RFP named six athletic facilities for which UC expressed interest in upgrading technology: Nippert Stadium, Fifth Third Arena, Marge Schott Stadium, Gettler Stadium, Keating Natatorium and Sheakley Athletics Center. These facilities were placed under consideration in the vendors’ proposals.
On April 11, 2017, Colosseo and Daktronics were notified that their proposals were the final two under consideration, according to a letter sent to Colosseo from UC’s senior buyer Mike Myres. Sixteen days later, UC requested a final proposal for Nippert Stadium only.
This action violated Ohio’s competitive bidding law, the lawsuit alleges.
“UC violated Ohio competitive bidding laws and the UC Competitive Bidding Rules by offering the Nippert Stadium RFP only to Daktronics and Colosseo, rather than to all public bidders,” the lawsuit states.
UC failed to follow rules established by the Board of Trustees
UC’s Board of Trustee’s Competitive Bidding Rules state that UC is required to award the contract to the lowest and best bidder. Bocko does not believe the scoreboard installed by Daktronics fits those requirements.
“We proposed a full-width LED surface with 4K resolution,” Bocko said. “The installed bid has 28 percent smaller LED surface of not even full HD resolution.”
The lawsuit supports Bocko’s claims. When comparing Colosseo’s base and alternate Nippert Stadium scoreboard proposals to that of Daktronics, Colosseo’s were cheaper ($360,853 and $851,515 less), were more cost-effective ($563/square feet vs. $792/square feet and $531/square feet vs. $713/square feet), had a better warranty (seven years vs. five years) and allowed UC 60 net days for payment in comparison to Daktronics’ seven. Colosseo’s alternate proposal also had a better LED pixel pitch (12 millimeters vs. 13 millimeters), according to the lawsuit.
“Many factors beyond just pricing and pixel pitch go into purchasing technology such as this,” Daktronics said in an official statement. “Daktronics is the proven provider in both professional and collegiate facilities with 25 NFL and 13 MLS installations as well as thousands of installations in college venues for multiple sports. As a US-based manufacturer, there are quality controls that lead to 10-plus years of longevity of our products and the highest reliability that is tested through a third-party certification.”
Daktronics also cited the company’s track record of providing local technical support.
“We provide unmatched service and support within the industry from the time of installation through the lifetime of our products,” the statement read. “There are three service technicians living in Cincinnati to maintain and support our installations in the local area.”
The exact same technology at Nippert Stadium will be used in the Super Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium, according to Daktronics.
UC failed to follow its own request for proposal
The lawsuit claims that UC failed to follow its own RFPs in multiple ways. One such violation concerned the weight of Nippert’s new video board and audio system.
According to a copy of the Nippert Stadium RFP, UC specified that both the LED screen and the speakers could not exceed 40,000 pounds. In its response to the RFP, Daktronics misrepresented the weight of its scoreboard, the lawsuit alleges.
Daktronics reported that the weight of its scoreboard was 39,000 pounds but, according to the lawsuit, it did not include the weight of its audio system, ultimately making its bid exceed the specified weight limit.
This could cost the university even more money, the lawsuit claims.
“Based upon information and belief, Daktronics’ scoreboard system, in light of the weight misrepresentation, will require significant structural reinforcement, which will cost UC hundreds of thousands of dollars,” the lawsuit reads.
The new structural reinforcements forced the scoreboard project to be delayed past the Aug. 31, 2017 deadline specified by UC in its purchase order sent to school president Neville Pinto from UC’s director of purchasing Tom Guerin.
The project will now be completed in late March 2018, according to the athletic department’s official website.
“It is my belief that the decision makers on UC's side were not able to get out of a long-term ties and an extensive relationship with Daktronics,” Bocko said. “It is an odd relationship. In [the] 2015 Nippert Stadium renovation [UC] ended up with a Daktronics LED ribbon board, which is unfinished to this day. Tolerance for Daktronics’ failures seems to be unconditional within UC Leadership.”