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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 1, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 13
Bobby Morris Playfield closing for summer use due to lighting upgrade
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Bobby Morris Playfield closing for summer use due to lighting upgrade

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

At the first sight of the summer sun, Seattleites - Gay, straight, families, students, and anyone in between - flock to Cal Anderson Park and make use of every square inch of the park and adjoining playfield.

For many nonprofit and LGBT sports teams, Bobby Morris Playfield - the south half of Cal Anderson Park - is of particular interest. Major fundraisers such as Bat N' Rouge and Jockstraps and Glitter take place on the field. This summer, however, will be different.

Bobby Morris Playfield will be closed from June 20 until the end of August, and construction and fences will replace sunbathers and sports teams.

'We are closing the field in order to install a new lighting system at Bobby Morris Playfield, which involves construction work and heavy equipment that makes the site unsafe for the public,' Dewey Potter, communications manager of Seattle Parks and Recreation, told Seattle Gay News. 'The rest of the park will stay open.'

The scheduled maintenance has many in the community asking why the playfield is being closed during the peak months of good weather and usage.

'Trenching is necessary to install the new conduit,' counters Potter. 'This will be difficult due to the limited space at the site and needs to be completed in the dry season to limit the site restoration required.'

'Once the trench work and crane work is complete, we should be able to reopen the field,' she continued. 'However, it is the contractor's right to establish the sequencing of this work, so we need to block out a work window when activities are not scheduled for the field.'

So what exactly is the problem with the existing light system at Bobby Morris Playfield? According to Seattle Parks and Recreation officials, the current lighting system was installed in 1964 and is outdated. The current system consists of 88 unshielded 1,500-watt floodlights on wood poles ranging from 75-90 feet high. The existing floodlights are beyond their useful life and require significant maintenance to keep them operational. Lighting levels produced by the floodlights are below recommended standards for safe play. The existing floodlights also create light pollution in the form of glare, light trespass, and 'sky glow.'

Parks and Recreation officials say the new system will fix these problems and more. 'The latest advances in athletic field lighting technology consist of floodlights that are more energy efficient and environmentally friendly,' say officials. 'The current generation of athletic field lighting delivers more light to the field and not into the surrounding community. The proposed shielded floodlight system would reduce the number of floodlights and light poles; reducing the overall connected load of the lighting system, resulting in a reduction in the amount of energy used at this field over the 30-year life of the system.'

The project is funded through the Cumulative Reserve Fund for Ballfields, Athletic Courts & Play Areas. Total project budget for planning, public process, design, and construction is estimated to be $600,000.

Seattle Parks and Recreation officials told SGN that the tennis courts will remain open during construction, but 'there will be some time that the lights are off.' In addition, the restrooms and shelter house will remain usable during construction.

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