Investing in illumination
Just ask the folks in the Dallas suburb of Carrollton, Texas. Carrollton swelled to its current population of about 118,000 in the 1990s, and folks there are now looking at upgrading existing facilities rather than building new ones.
"We're almost built out," says Scott Whitaker, the town's parks and recreation director. "Right now we're looking at sustainability rather than new growth...sustainability is a really important word for us as a city."
Whitaker says the parks board initially decided to work on an investment of adding five new soccer fields, including new lights at each of them. Money also had been set aside for a new athletic complex that would offer a football field, girls' softball fields and fields for adult recreational softball leagues.
One possible location, though, was in a flood plain. Other suitable locations couldn't be found in this town that was nearly built to capacity. So Whitaker and the board opted for another idea.
"We decided to reinvest in the existing fields and add some fields at the existing parks," he says. After months of research and discussions, the 26 athletic fields in Carrollton now have new Friday night lights—and 1,838 new light fixtures for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday as well.
Looking at revamping the existing fields also meant looking at revamping the existing lighting, some of which had been there since the 1970s, Whitaker says.
"Some of the parks used quartz lights," he says. "They are expensive to use and they use a lot of electricity."
Whitaker and others at the park department began looking into some of the more environmentally friendly lighting products on the market.
"The newer product looked more efficient," he says. The downside, though, was that it was a newer product. "It didn't have a track record," he says.
Ultimately, the board voted to upgrade the lighting at its athletic fields, replacing the old lights with a more environmentally friendly type of lighting. A 25-year warranty was included in the package, which cut down on maintenance costs. All the lights were put on a timer, which meant Carrollton park officials were not paying to light a field that no one was using. The taxpayers liked that. The neighbors did as well.
"At least three-quarters of the fields we made the determination we wanted to invest in," Whitaker says. "We looked at it as an investment."
It is an investment that has paid off not only in terms of satisfaction from Carrollton residents and compliments from those on the opposing teams. It has paid off in real dollars and cents, Whitaker says.
"A lot of it was that the technology has come a long way," he says. "We used to have 18 lights on a pole. Now we have six to eight. The new lights are more efficient and more direct."
With the older system, Whitaker says, the fields were not meeting the minimum requirements for foot-candles. Not so anymore.
"This allowed us to bring all of our fields up to the levels of the particular sports," he says.