News from the Tennessee Valley Business

Mayor Dwight Tankersley of Hartselle with his grandson, Zeke McHan. Tankersley is wearing a disposable radio.
Daily photo by Deangelo McDaniel
Mayor Dwight Tankersley of Hartselle with his grandson, Zeke McHan. Tankersley is wearing a disposable radio.

An ear full of sports
Hartselle company hopes disposable radios will change game-day experience

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — If you’re like most fans attending an Alabama or Auburn football game, you’ve been in this situation.

A player gets hurt and the public address announcer is not able to tell you what is happening. With a puzzled look, you turn to the person next to you and realize this fan doesn’t know either.

Or, you may wonder play after play what is happening because you can’t hear the public address system.

That’s the situation Larry Coulter of Hartselle was in while attending a Detroit Pistons’ basketball game.

“I’m not a sports freak,” he said. “I couldn’t understand what the announcer was saying, so I left the game. I remember thinking there has to be a better way to enjoy the game.”

Almost a decade later, Coulter, a mechanical engineer and president of DevTec Inc., believes he has the answer.

One-time use memory

Through his engineering, the Hartselle-based company has a patent and is producing a one-time use radio that allows fans to listen to the FM radio broadcast while watching the action on the field.

It is designed to provide fans 10 hours of game coverage, from pre-game and post-game.

DevTeck will sell the radios outside the stadium, and once you turn it on, it runs until the battery dies. The radio will receive the FM feed from the stadium. If you attend an Alabama football game, for example, you will hear the Crimson Tide Sports Network with Eli Gold and Kenny Stabler.

To eliminate interference, the radio is equipped with digital technology, DevTeck marketing director Joe Holmes said.

“This is revolution that will change how fans watch sporting events,” Holmes said.

Tim Green of Mongtomery agreed.

“I really enjoyed it,” said Green, an avid Alabama fan who tried the radio during the Crimson Tide’s game with Arkansas. “You’re still able to see the game and enjoy that as much as you ever have. But, you know so much about what is going on because you’re listening to the radio broadcast.”

In addition to Alabama games, the small radio, which is called InUrEar, has been tested during football games at Ohio State and Louisiana State University.

“So far, the response has been positive,” Holmes said.

The radio, which weighs less than a pound, made its biggest debut last week at the President’s Cup in Montreal. DevTek has a contract with the Professional Golf Association.

With 24 of the world’s top golfers from the U.S. and Europe participating, InUrEar allowed spectators to enjoy the golfing action more than one hole at a time.

Fans were allowed to receive their broadcast in English or French. The earpiece, which is environmentally friendly, was disposed of in recycling bins after each round. At $10 each, DevTeck sold more than 10,000 of the radios.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for fans of professional golf to enhance their enjoyment of each round,” Coulter said.

Holmes hopes the contract with the PGA is the beginning of bigger things. In addition to the college, the company will be testing the product in several professional venues, including the Tennessee Titans, Atlanta Braves, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs.

DevTek is also eyeing high school football games, which will give fans the choice of listening to their local radio station when teams travel.

“It’s all about enhancing the fan’s enjoyment,” said Holmes, a former college basketball player.

Coulter didn’t develop the technology immediately after his experience with the Pistons.

He did draw a sketch of the product, but after talking with the Federal Communications Commission, he realized trying to get a dependable FM frequency was difficult.

“At this time, the FCC was auctioning frequencies, but they were too weak,” he said. “This was before FM was highly regulated.”

Coulter never lost his dream, and two years ago, he received a patent and went back to the FCC. Other companies have developed small radios, but none that are disposable.

“This product is designed to let people be part of the game-day experience,” Coulter said.

Hartselle Mayor Dwight Tankersley used one of the radios during Alabama’s Arkansas and Georgia games.

“It was great,” he said. “It was nice to listen to the radio with no wires or worrying about knocking the game off the station.”

A long time fan of college football, Tankersley said he once carried radios to games, but stopped because of the wires.

“I get into it and there were times when I would break the radio,” he said. “This product is small and has no wires. I listened to the entire game and post-game show.”

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