706 bulbs to make light of night games

April 07, 1991|By Mark Hyman

Look up.

Pull over, get out of your car and look way, way up. See those denim specks against the South Baltimore sky? The ones wearing the tiny steel-toe boots?

You're looking at construction workers who are standing roughly 180 feet above the street, and who are performing a vital task in the building of the new ballpark at Camden Yards.

They're creating night games.

Recently, steel light standards have started sprouting up above the roof of the ballpark, which is scheduled to be the Baltimore Orioles' home for Opening Day 1992. They'll hold the lights that will make night into day about 60 times each baseball season at the ballpark.

When the steel walkers are done, four standards will dot the ballpark, including one that will rise above the roof of the B&O warehouse. Fixed to them will be 706 metal halide light bulbs, each throwing off 1,500 watts.

These are serious bulbs. They cost about $500 each. They're guaranteed by General Electric, the manufacturer, to last five years. They not only burn brightly, but they also burn hot. Or, as Michael Doyal, an engineer and electrical consultant on the ballpark project, said, "You could cook a turkey on one."

Light standards will be going up for the next month or so, longer for the one positioned on top of the warehouse. The lighting fixtures and bulbs then will be installed. By late May or June -- when the ballpark is expected to be hooked to permanent electrical power -- a few lights might be turned on now and then.

The big test comes late in the fall, when GE experts come to town. They'll walk around the field with a light meter. If third base is too dark, they'll send some guy up the ladder to move bulbs until everything is right.

While the lights go up, the roughly 47,000 seats will be going in. This month, workers begin drilling holes in the concrete decks. Before they are finished, they will have drilled about 160,000. By midsummer, the first seats should be anchored in place, going in the rate of about 10,000 a month.

Soon, luxury will make its first appearance at the ballpark. An authentic, true-to-life luxury box, one of 72 that will be in the ballpark, is being completed on the mezzanine level. It should be outfitted with wet bar, television and swizzle sticks by the end of the month. The contractors want to finish one early to give interior decorators a good idea what they'll be decorating.

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