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4 Hall schools receive new football stadium lighting
New bulbs will brighten fields
0823LIGHTS 1
The new stadium lights come up at East Hall High School on Wednesday night so the lighting company rep can measure their output. Within minutes, the dark spot at center right was gone as the lighting evened out. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Friday night lights will be a lot brighter at four Hall County high school football stadiums this fall.

The $696,000 project funded by special purpose local option sales taxes averaged $190,000 per school, with East Hall High School’s deteriorating light pole replacement costing more than the others, said Hall County Schools Director of Facilities Damon Gibbs.

That money increased the light levels, and brought all four fields up to Georgia High School Association requirements, according to Gibbs and the lighting manufacturer. All parties expect an energy savings as well, they said.

At least one head football coach has noticed the difference.

“They’re amazing,” said East Hall’s Bryan Gray after practice Wednesday night. “We were skeptical that four poles would cover the field because we used to have eight, but they do. Where it matters, it’s beautiful.”

The less-with-more result comes with improved photometrics, said Musco Lighting LLC field sales representative Rob Staples, who sold Hall County the metal-halide lights. The old technology just didn’t have the same reflective and adjustment potential, Staples said. Each new individual fixture is bar-mounted and aimed at the factory, he said, for bright and even coverage specific to each field.

“With our photometrics, we can shift the light more than 1,000 ways,” Staples said. “The old ... types’ beam spread only six different ways.”

The new bulbs also impressed the local residents with their longer life span and energy savings, with a 20-year warranty and projected savings of 24 percent across the four schools, according to Gibbs and Staples.

East Hall, again, reaped the most energy savings, estimated at 57 percent by Staples. That’s a figure not lost on schools energy manager Joe Cravero, on hand for the East Hall test Wednesday, but it takes a back seat to the brighter light, he said.

“It might help with savings,” Cravero said, “but the light was the main thing.”

Light levels — measured in foot-candles — were about half the Georgia High School Association’s required 50 foot-candle standard at three of the four schools, officials said. West Hall’s basement-performing lamps were putting only 20.5 foot-candles of light onto the field, according to Staples’ light meter readings taken earlier this year.

Johnson wasn’t much better at 21.8, and North Hall and East Hall checked in with 27.8 and 35.5, respectively. All four fields now get between 52 and 57 foot-candles, Staples said.

The new bulbs are also designed to counter metal-halide’s natural tendency to predictably dim over time by gradually increasing the wattage at timed intervals and amounts to offset the dimming. But they’re smarter than that. When a bulb blows out, Musco knows about it at the speed of a cellular signal. The Iowa company also can remotely control when its products turn on and off with a coach’s phone call, a user-controlled computer program or the flip of an old-fashioned, on-site switch.

“I never thought I’d see the day when a satellite would control stadium lights,” Gray said, leaning on East Hall’s stadium fence just after dark.

Local sports photographer Sam Henry shot his favorite high school team’s scrimmage under the new lights two weeks ago at Johnson High. He noticed the difference through his camera, he said, but isn’t sure the average fan will notice.

“I could actually see into the helmet,” Henry said. “In years past, you could only see the helmet. People would almost have to be blind not to see the difference, but people don’t think that way.”

Gibbs said the same.

“People notice more when you don’t have (good) lighting than when you do,” Gibbs said. “It’s an expectation.”