Lights on at the Sports Complex

January 15, 2007 11:00 pm
The 70-foot-high light poles were lowered into place by slipping them over the pre-cast, spun-concrete bases. Tim Butz, on ladder, is project coordinator. At right is Clint Stowe of Roadrunner Towing and Crane Service from Ontario. Rod Cole, left, is with Sid Johnson and Company who installed the concrete bases. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
The 70-foot-high light poles were lowered into place by slipping them over the pre-cast, spun-concrete bases. Tim Butz, on ladder, is project coordinator. At right is Clint Stowe of Roadrunner Towing and Crane Service from Ontario. Rod Cole, left, is with Sid Johnson and Company who installed the concrete bases. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By MIKE FERGUSON

The umps won't be calling baseball and softball games at the Baker Sports Complex on account of darkness anymore.

Not varsity games, at least.

Aided by a group of volunteers and contractors from Baker City, the Musco Sports Lighting Company on Tuesday finished installing about $165,000 worth of lights at the varsity baseball and softball fields — the two on the south side of the Baker Sports Complex.

Work wrapped up around noon, said Tim Collins, a member of the committee that raised money for the lighting project and a member board of directors for the Sports Complex.

"It was a neat deal," Collins said of the four-day installation process, which began Saturday and included paid contractors and volunteers, as well as Tim Butz from Musco Sports Lighting. "It went together nicely. They try to make it as community-friendly as they can."

In addition to the cost of the lights, installing the tall structures cost an additional $80,000 — about half of that for wiring alone, Collins said.

The majority of the funding for the lighting project came from the Leo Adler Foundation. The remainder came through local fund-raising. Individuals and businesses could purchase a light pole for $3,000, or a tile to be installed at the entrance to the Sports Complex for $1,000.

The current project has tapped all the funds that have been raised to date, Collins said. As of now, there's no plan to light the junior varsity softball and baseball fields, nor the three soccer fields at the north end of the Sports Complex.

But if plans change, because more lights could be added to existing light poles, the cost to light the other two fields would be less than the cost of lighting the two varsity fields.

There's probably not enough room between the soccer fields to install a bank of lights, Collins said.

The project came about not only to allow Baker High School baseball and softball teams to continue play after the sun goes down, but to lure tournaments and baseball and softball camps to town.

Members of the committee that raised money for the project cited increased visitorship brought about by youth baseball and softball tournaments.

Even with the lights installed, there's a curfew under the conditional use permit issued by Baker City to the Sports Complex. Under the terms of the permit, no softball inning can start after 10 p.m., and no baseball inning can begin after 11 p.m.

Residents around the Sports Complex — particularly those who live on Eighth Street — shouldn't be too inconvenienced by nighttime play. Not only does improved reflector technology cut the system's energy consumption in half, advancements in the reflector design reduce spillover off the site of the ballfields by 50 percent, according to Musco Sports Lighting's Web site.

"They're very efficient lights, with very little spillover," Collins said. "Their lights are so much better than they were even two years ago."

Collins said the company will replace the bulbs for free while they're under warranty — up to 5,000 hours of use, which could take 20 years, Collins estimated.

"It's a worry-free program," he said.