One pole at Fink Field fell during February windstorm. Rec District facing prospect of expensive replacements or other options

The West Side Recreation and Park District is facing the likelihood that it is going to have to remove all the current light poles at the Franklin Field softball complex.

Winds gusting to more than 60 miles per hour toppled a 40-foot tall light pole at the Franklin Field softball complex in early February, and age and corrosion were blamed for the failure.

A subsequent examination of the other poles at the four-field complex revealed more corrosion and a lighting expert called in by the District said he would recommend removing all the poles.

Whether the District's insurance carrier will pay to replace all the poles isn't known at this time, and we the District would be hard pressed to fund all the poles at a cost that could approach $1 million.

The Board of Directors discussed the issue at length with District administrator Les Clark III and Chris Bailey, a regional representative and project manager for Musco Lighting.

The Fink Field fell during what Clark called "the perfect storm" when winds gusted over 60 miles per hour.

That prompted inspections of all the other light poles at the complex, and signs of rust and water damage were found throughout.

Clark said that sooner or later, the damage is going to compromise the integrity of the poles just like the one that fell.
The problem comes from the bases of the metal poles coming into contact with the wet ground. They were set on concrete pillars, but over the years, the pillars have settled into the ground and the metal is in direct contact with wet soil and that is leading to rust and corrosion.

The poles are old, and as Hailey said, all equipment has a finite life.

Clark said the oldest lights down there date back as far as the 1950s and '60s and some are a bit newer, having gone in in the 1980s.

With input from Hailey, Clark and the Board discussed the issue at length and Clark was directed to come up with an action plan.

Replacing all the poles in the near future is much too expensive, Clark and the board agreed.

Depending on whether or not the underground conduit with the wiring for the lights needs to be replaced, the cost could range up to $260,00 for each of the four ball fields.

"We have four fields and if we do one, we've got to do them all. That's a million dollars," Board Member Rick Jorgensen said.

Jorgensen wondered if the district needs to have four light fields.
"Do we need lights on every ball field down there?" he asked.

Without lights "They'd still be usable to some extent," he said.

Clark said that, with ponytail and the co-ed softball programs the district needs lighted fields.

Clark offered several possible plans to have lighted fields for ponytail if the district can't afford to replace all the lights.

One would be to turn one of the current minor league fields, field No. 2 at the Little league Complex across the street into a ponytail field, and get donations to fix up field No. 4, which has lights as well.

Another option is to partner with the Taft Union High school District, which is developing plans to install lighting at the two softball diamonds on the TUHS campus.