Ready for Prime Time

By Susan Casey | Oct 15, 2003




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We had to transpose an entire airport runway in downtown Cleveland into a track for a night race,” said Gary Laidman, vice president of Doan/Pyramid Electric Company, of Bedford Heights, Ohio. “And there was no overhead lighting. How do you illuminate a 2.37-mile, flat track on a runway?”

Carefully. For the annual “The Roar by The Shore” race at Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport, electrical contractor Doan/Pyramid began prepping almost a year in advance. “We were in meetings, doing layouts until we got on site about a month prior to the event,” said Laidman. Then they installed every bit of cable for powering the event—from facilities for the crowds to powering the pits. They even hooked up the timing lines installed in the asphalt of the runways and taxiways to monitor the speed of the cars. Everything for the event is run on temporary generators, including the temporary lighting supplied and operated for the night race by Musco Lighting.

It took 22 lighting towers to illuminate the racing circuit—each one with 15 6,000W HMI par lights. “This is by far the largest mobile lighting challenge we’ve ever taken on,” said Musco President Joe Crookham.

Musco’s job began in the computer. “Our design engineers had a layout of the airport and we programmed it into our aiming software program, determining truck locations,” said Jerome Fynaardt, Musco’s Mobile Sales Manager. “When we got access to inside of the airport, four hours before they started practicing, we put the trucks in place. We roughly knew where the fixtures needed to be and just started laying things out on the track as the night went on,” he said. “Some of it was pre-aimed, but we did most of the adjusting after they got done racing that first night.” Since the fixtures on the trucks are remote controlled, Musco’s crew went out on the field, and, like adjusting a side-view mirror on a car, used controls to pan lights left or right. “Once we got the fixtures in place,” he said, “we measured the foot candles predetermined by the computer. We worked until sunlight—smoothing the lighting out for the TV cameras.” The same drill was repeated on Friday night in final preparation for the Saturday race.

Stadium lighting challenges of other sorts were faced by Morrow-Meadows Corp. of the City of Industry, Calif. They were electrical contractors on the 14-month job at the Home Depot Center. The Center, which served as an official U.S. Olympic Training Site, sits on a 125-acre site in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson, Calif. The center opened in June 2003 and includes state-of-the-art stadiums—soccer, tennis, track and field—as well as six soccer practice fields, 19 tennis courts, facilities for volleyball, baseball, softball and basketball. “It was a challenge of coordination in terms of the schedule and the way the site was excavated,” said Steven Anderson, project manager for Morrow-Meadows.

While installation of lights for the track and field stadiums was straightforward—it was possible to assemble the General Electric (GE)-supplied lights near where they would be installed—that wasn’t possible at either the tennis or soccer stadium. Tennis stadium poles were assembled nearby and had to be transported via truck. “Trying to bring a huge semi truck with a 120-foot pole laying on it, and have it make its way through the narrow area far enough along so the crane can pick it up, with people digging all around, was a challenge,” admitted Paul Smith, general foreman, Morrow Meadows.

Installation of lights in the soccer stadium, now home to the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team, was another story. While most of the 27,000-seat facility is open air, a truss-supported Teflon roof covers one area of the seating. Four hundred GE field lights and over 40 GE egress light bars had to be installed on a 120-foot-high catwalk that spans the truss. Panels, transformers and cables had to be transported via scissor lift. Lights, mounted three on a bracket, had to be raised with a winch. “I wanted to install the rows of lights on the ground,” said Smith, who used 10 electricians for three months to complete the job, “but I didn’t have access to the catwalk since its arrival was stalled. Then again, I couldn’t really do my layout until the catwalk was up.”

Then there was aiming. Unlike the remote-control capability of the Musco temporary lighting trucks used for the night race, the permanent lights required manual angle setting. “We loosened fixtures, adjusted and pointed them according to directions from GE workers standing on the graphed field—a task that took several days,” he said.

“The challenge,” said Smith, “was the timing of two different operations—building the catwalk, and building the lighting. You shouldn’t have a shadow out there. You’re looking for even light.” And that, in a sentence, is the goal of stadium lighting. No easy task. EC


CASEY, author of "Kids Inventing! A Handbook for Young Inventors" and "Women Invent! Two Centuries of Discoveries that have Changed Our World," can be reached at [email protected] or

About The Author

CASEY, author of “Women Heroes of the American Revolution,” “Kids Inventing!” and “Women Invent!” can be reached at [email protected] and

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