Sometimes you just have to think big. When Pueblo, Colo.’s Dutch Clark Stadium needed a new scoreboard and lighting, Pueblo City Schools (PCS) considered modest options to keep the cost down. Due to some forward thinking, support and fundraising efforts from electrical contractor Pueblo Electrics Inc. (PE), the stadium now boasts a state-of-the-art light-emitting diode (LED) lighting system and video board for scores and footage.
All four PCS high school teams compete in football, soccer and track at the centralized stadium. However, it is far more than a sporting complex; it’s a venue where generations of families have gathered for the better part of a century. This is where alumni revel in their school pride and where century-old school rivalries live on. The 65-year-old facility can seat up to 15,000 people and is often filled to capacity for big games.
However, the structure was starting to show its age. The 42-year-old scoreboard had become unreliable and was hard to read from the stands. The stadium’s outdated metal-halide lighting cast shadows across the field. Poles needed to be replaced, and the electrical wiring required updating. Even worse, engineers inspecting the stadium found rust and corrosion on the light poles, creating a safety concern, according to Bob Lawson, PCS director of facilities.
PCS considered the options. The lighting and scoreboard presented both challenges and opportunities for the board of education to tie the two projects together. But, by doing so, it would keep the stadium functional while providing upgrades to enhance the player and fan experience.
Both upgrades were completed over the summer of 2015. The lights were installed and operational before the beginning of the football season, and the scoreboard followed two weeks later, just in time for the first big rivalry game of the season.
Making the scoreboard
The existing scoreboard was 25 feet wide with traditional lettering. The original plans for its replacement were modest, in keeping with the limited funding available, but PE had other ideas. Ron Guarienti, PE’s owner and president, said he began to think of better options after attending a 2014 National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) conference where ideas about advertising, sponsorships and industry promotion were discussed. The PCS project was the perfect opportunity to marry business with education and community support. Guarienti and PCS personnel came together to approach local business owners and vendors, and a financial plan took shape.
“I said, ‘Let’s make it bigger. We can make it educational [as well as promotional],’” Guarienti said.
Companies were offered several advertisements per game if they helped fund the new board.
By securing far more funding than expected, PCS was able to shop for a cutting-edge scoreboard. District leaders selected a Daktronics video board that offered red LEDs for home and guest score displays and a video screen to show advertisements, instant replays, student-produced videos and other footage to keep the audience engaged.
The Daktronics video scoreboard is 67 feet wide, 34 feet tall and 50 feet above the ground. PE installed the electric service to the board with a total of six men on the job.
PE hired a local steel contractor to help erect the stand and board. The foundation was challenging because it had to line up within ¼ inch for the 36,000-pound steel structure’s bolt pattern. A local crane company raised the sign.
The scoreboard took two and a half weeks to install. Final work was done even as the spectators for the season’s first game were filing into their seats.
PE also installed a single-point sound system that connected to the video screen. Daktronics designed the system for a 15,000-person stadium. Its 95 decibels at the 50-yard line produces a sound comparable to a rock concert, Guarienti said.
“The scoreboard provides opportunities for our high school students who are taking media production courses to learn how to operate the scoreboard, create commercials and develop their skills in mass communication,” said Pueblo City Schools Superintendent Constance Jones.
PCS expects sponsorship and advertising to fully pay for the scoreboard over the next three years.
“We anticipate a new source of revenue through the sponsorship of advertising sales on our beautiful scoreboard,” she said. “Additionally, our school district is implementing a new technical education program for students interested in gaining hands-on experience operating and producing live-media productions.”
For lighting, PCS initially wanted to replace the existing metal-halide system with the same kind of hardware. PCS put the job out to bid and selected PE for the design/build project.
PCS planned to simply replace the metal-halide lights, but PE suggested a modern, energy-efficient solution.
“The metal-halide [system] was not very efficient and required a lot of maintenance and upkeep,” Lawson said, adding that he was not enthusiastic about using it again. The board was interested in learning more about LED lighting. The upfront costs of an LED system would be higher—$1 million in installation costs compared to $600,000 for a metal-halide system—but LEDs had been tested and proven at other stadiums, including University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. LEDs achieve 111 foot-candles on average, whereas high school sports normally have around 75 foot-candles.
To get the same lighting quality an LED system provides, PCS would have to put in two to three times more metal-halide fixtures. Therefore, the district opted for the LED system, which required fewer fixtures and offered better coverage, bringing daytime atmosphere to night games.
PE met with LED manufacturers and liked the Q-LED system from Qualite Sports Lighting. This system is installed at University of Phoenix Stadium and Duke University, and it is currently going in at the Minnesota Vikings’ and Miami Dolphins’ football stadiums and Fenway Park baseball stadium in Boston.
PCS faced another lighting-cost challenge that the local utility, Black Hills Energy, brought to its attention. The lights the stadium had used for decades were wired on a single-phase distribution system with a single meter, and, during peak demand, the usage was so high that it put PCS into a ratcheted rate bracket, significantly raising annual energy costs. PE met with Black Hills Energy and decided it made sense for the stadium to break its distribution into multiple systems with smaller loads. In that utility’s district, a system that doesn’t run over 50 kilowatts (kW) is not subject to the ratcheted rate the stadium was paying under the single system.
So with those six workers, who were later dedicated to the scoreboard installation, PE broke the system into four separate distributed systems, each of which never operates above 50 kW. They ran 3,000 feet of fiber optic cable and 12,000 feet of cable to feed the lights.
Installing the poles was demanding, since the overhead lighting had to fit in the bowl shape of the stadium and holes needed to be bored through shale. This was accomplished with the help of a local crane company and PAR Electrical Contractors Inc., which dug the 6-foot-wide-by-13-foot-deep holes. Each lamp came with gravity-cast mounting brackets. Although the lights come pre-aimed from the factory, they could be adjusted with laser-guided aiming to ensure the lights cast evenly across the field.
The 120 LED fixtures and built-in drivers that PE installed are DLC certified and UL and ETL listed. Guarienti said that the system offers the best spill glare control in the industry and has patents pending.
“Their 225,000 hours of operating life are the best in the industry,” he said.
The fixtures stay cool, never reaching a temperature above 87.7°F. The high-power-density metal-core lamps also come with a corrosion-resistant, die-cast aluminum heat sink to maximize the thermal management and light performance.
The lighting included all military-grade hardware with U.S.-made materials, Guarienti said.
With everything finished, the school district and Pueblo community are enjoying the results.
“This is the best improvement we’ve made to the stadium in a very long time,” Lawson said.
The stadium itself was built in 1950, and hasn’t had a major renovation for 50 years.
The LEDs have been a boost for players and fans. Play is now easier to see from the stands, and it has affected how the stadium is presented on television. Because LED lights don’t necessarily flicker, viewers won’t be distracted by flashing while watching slow-motion replays. In addition, while metal-halide lights need time to warm up, LEDs turn on immediately.
The school district projects that it will see a lighting-based energy savings of $40,000 each year, reducing costs from $100,000 a year to $60,000.
PCS’ lighting fixtures both improve the visibility and reduce energy consumption, which will provide significant cost savings in the future.
PE was happy to be part of this project, which will benefit the community and students for years to come.