IBEW Local 1 electricians shine new light on Busch Stadium

Working through the winter replacing 700 MH lights with LEDs


HIGH ABOVE BUSCH STADIUM, IBEW Local 1 electricians Jared Kolb (left) and Cory Weisehan work to connect new LED light fixtures that promise to dramatically improve lighting on the field and improve broadcast quality for Cardinals’ fans watching from home. – Bill Greenblatt photo

It’s been a brutal winter, with gusting winds, rain, sleet, snow and a polar vortex, but take heart, the St. Louis Cardinals’ April 4 home opener is just a few weeks away.

And while that’s sure to be a good game, with the Cardinals facing off against the San Diego Padres in the first of a three-game series, it’s the Cards’ first home night game on April 8 against the L.A. Dodgers that promises to light up the stands, thanks to the hard work of a group of IBEW Local 1 electricians who spent the winter working with Sachs Electric to install new LED lighting at Busch Stadium.
Every now and then, a job comes along that you just want to be a part of. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of the special challenges. You just want to be able to say you had a hand in making it happen.

IBEW LOCAL 1 ELECTRICIANS worked through the winter to remove the metal-halide (MH) sports lights at the stadium and replace them with new LED fixtures in time for the St. Louis Cardinals’ home opener on April 4, and the Red Birds’ first home night game on April 8. Working on the project have been (front row, from left) Joel Miclow, Ryan Wiesehan, Jared Kolb, Mike Branneky, Scott Mitchell, Matt Eckelkamp, Jason Tolle and Dan Nordmann, (back row, from left), Rich Kempland, Lee Hopper, Tom Fortune, Josh Peniston, Cam Loechel, Kyle Zumsteg and Cory Weisehan. Not pictured are Shane Williams, Joe Steimmetz, Matt Jobe, Joe Callahan, Justin Lhote, John Kostecki, Dave Malugen, Mike Bresnan and Mike Obermark. – Bill Greenblatt photo

This was one of those jobs.

“Everybody has got an attachment to this place,” Local 1 Journeyman and Steward Josh Peniston said. “I’m proud as a fan to be able to do something like this. To me, it’s cool. It’s really awesome to be a part of this and see it go so well.”

The project began last November with the removal of 680 metal-halide (MH) sports lights. The lights were replaced with new, cost-efficient LED lights, manufactured by GigaTera provided through a partnership with PLANLED.

“Since we moved into the new Busch Stadium in 2006, our field lighting has received high marks in MLB evaluations,” said Joe Abernathy, the Cardinals’ vice president of facility planning. “However, with the recent advances in LED lighting technology we now have an opportunity to further improve the quality of our field lights and reduce our operating and maintenance cost.”

In addition to being energy-efficient – it will cost about 60 percent less to run the LED lights through the year – players, fans and staff will see the benefits of the new lights, both in the stadium and at home.

Sachs Project Manager Jeff Bryant said the color rendering index – the quality of the light – will be about 90 percent of the quality of natural light, providing a more visually comfortable light with improved uniformity, reduced shadows, reduced glare and improved broadcast quality for HD and 4K TVs. The high-tech lights will also allow the Cardinals to provide theatrical lighting effects for home run celebrations and other in-game events.

The new lighting system is designed to have a life expectancy of 30 years.

None of it would have been possible though without the skill and dedication of 25 Local 1 electricians, who worked through the worst of the winter weather climbing the light towers to take down the old MH lights, install the new LED lights, and have the whole system ready to go in time for the home opener.

“The hall was pretty instrumental about getting the right people here,” Bryant said. “With the weather that we’ve had, I couldn’t be any happier with what the guys have done. There were some days that I couldn’t even stand being here on the upper deck, let alone on the top of the towers. They really knocked it out.”

Local 1 Journeyman Dan Nordmann, the project’s general foreman, said some of it had to do with the venue.

“Asking guys to come out here for the winter, it’s a pretty good stretch,” he said. “We needed people that wanted to be part of this.

“The Cardinals ask a lot, but they’re appreciative,” Nordmann said. “And if you’re a St. Louisan, you’re a Cardinals fan.”

Anyone in the building trades knows there are special challenges to working on elevated platforms. But when you add the dynamic of winter weather, the challenge is extreme.

“Your hands are cold, and it changes a lot of things, the way you can grip things, the dexterity is not there,” Peniston said. “But these guys did what they had to do. They knew what the job was. They knew what they got into and they didn’t complain about it. The just went up and worked, in some of the coldest weather I’ve ever worked in.

“These guys didn’t complain a bit,” he said. “They went up in all different kinds of conditions to make this happen. It’s pretty monumental what they did in the short amount of time – essentially two months. We took down 700 lights that weighed 88 pounds apiece and put 700 up. Plus drivers, plus pulling wires, everything they were able to accomplish in a very short amount of time with the weather that they had to endure – it was pretty impressive.”

“We had single digits down here on the deck and we had guys that would climb. I had ice in my beard and they were up there climbing. I’ve been doing this 22 years, and this is one of the better groups of guys I’ve ever worked with.”

Now that the job is nearly done, it’s time to start thinking about baseball.

The Cardinals’ 2019 season will feature 26 home series and 26 road series, including 14 weekend series at Busch Stadium: April 4, 6-7 vs San Diego, April 19-21 vs New York Mets, April 26-28 vs Cincinnati, May 10-12 vs Pittsburgh, May 24-26 vs Atlanta, May 31-June 2 vs. Chicago Cubs, June 21-23 vs. Los Angeles Angels, July 12-14 vs Arizona, July 26-27 vs Houston, Aug. 9-11 vs Pittsburgh, Aug. 23-25 vs Colorado, Aug. 30-Sept. 1 vs Cincinnati, Sept. 13-15 vs Milwaukee and Sept. 27-29 vs Chicago Cubs.

To view the full 2019 regular season schedule, visit cardinals.com.

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