By Ivan Raconteur
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN A group of local volunteers is looking for help from the Lester Prairie community to keep the lights at Bulldog Field burning bright.
It has been known for more than two years that something needs to be done about the lights at the city’s football and softball fields.
Last year, a committee was formed to help find a solution for the aging field lights at the city park.
After talking to local contractors, the group determined that the total cost of restoring the existing lights will be approximately $24,000.
To date, the committee has secured commitments for $15,000 of that cost.
The committee is asking the residents of Lester Prairie to donate the remaining $9,000 to get the project done in 2012.
“If we can raise the $13,000 in the next couple of months, we could get the project done in 2011,” committee member Troy Feltmann said. “With just over 1,000 households in the 55354 zip code, it would take $10 per household to reach that goal.”
“We are asking each household to donate what they can to help complete the project,” he added.
Each donor will be listed in the newspaper when the project is completed, and a sign with donors’ names is going to be constructed and hung at the park, according to Feltmann.
Checks can be dropped off at First Community Bank, or mailed to Bulldog Field Lighting Restoration Project, PO Box 503, Lester Prairie, MN 55354.
A look back at the history of the lights
In 1970, after a few years of discussion, a group of Lester Prairie residents, led by the Lester Prairie Jaycees, started a fundraising project to install lights at the athletic field (now known as Bulldog Field).
After years of playing their home football games in the afternoons, the Bulldogs played their first home game under the lights, Sept. 18, 1970.
The lights have served the community well through 40 years of football, baseball, and softball games.
The lights are used for high school football games, and, during June and July, the lights are used for youth baseball and softball four nights per week.
“By playing two games a night in Lester Prairie, we get a lot more home games, which means less expense for our parents for traveling,” Feltmann said.
Although the lights have served the community well, they are beginning to show their age, and are not as effective as they once were.
During the past 10 years, the lights have not been putting out the foot-candles that they once did, Feltmann explained.
The Lester Prairie Park Board brought in a consultant in 2008 to take readings of the output from the lights.
The consultant stated that for a high school football game, it should measure a minimum of 20 foot-candles on the field, but 30 foot-candles is ideal.
The measurements on the Lester Prairie field ranged from 9 to 16 foot-candles.
The current lights are a mercury vapor lamp. This type of bulb is not used anymore because there are more efficient bulbs available, according to Feltmann. The mercury vapor lamps are still manufactured, but they could become obsolete.
The poles are starting to show some rust, as well.
Safety may become a concern if the lights continue to deteriorate, Feltmann said. “If they get worse, it is getting harder to see the ball. We would rather prevent an accident before something bad happens,” he commented.
Last fall, a Bulldog Field Lighting Committee was formed to see what could be done to solve this problem. The group’s goal is to get the lights restored now, before the poles get very rusty and would have to be replaced.
The committee has talked to a few lighting companies, and the members of the committee believe that they have come up with a solution.
The plan includes replacing the lamps and ballasts, sandblasting and repainting the poles, and rewiring the poles.
The Bulldog Field lighting restoration committee includes: co-chairpersons Gregg Machemehl and Troy Feltmann; treasurer Amy Betcher; and committee members Joe Scoblic, Mike Heigl, Lisa Feltmann, Bob Messer, Larry Roth, and Chip Hentges.
Feltmann said the committee will be inserting a letter about the project into the Herald Journal and Shopper for all Lester Prairie residents. The letter will include an envelope that can be used to submit a donation.