PaliHi Board Approves New Stadium Lights

By Sue Pascoe

The Palisades High School Governing Board was presented with a dilemma at its board meeting on Aug. 22. Should it appropriate about $170,000 to install thermostats and improve lighting in the school’s classrooms or about $173,000 for new stadium lights?

The board decided that it was time to say goodbye to the inefficient 55-year-old lighting system for the heavily-used athletic field.

Chief Business Officer Greg Wood and Operations Director Don Parcell explained they had some funds remaining from Proposition 39 last year and intended to apply for more.

That proposition, also known as the California Clean Energy Jobs Act, allocated revenue to local education agencies to support energy efficiency and alternative energy projects, as well as related improvements and repairs that contributed to reduced operating costs in public schools.

The first PaliHi night football game in 1963. Photo: Barry Vernon

Wood and Parcell presented two options to board members, after explaining the school did not have enough money to do both options.

There was $74,413 left from 2016-17 and $152,681 was projected for 2017-18 for a total of $227,094 that could be spent.

One option was to install new lighting in classrooms, the gyms and the J building and upgrade the thermostats. That project would cost $169,808 after incentives.

The second option was to replace the stadium lights and the lights in the classroom, gyms and J building. That option would cost $173,217 after incentives.

The pros and cons for each option were discussed, with Parcell and Wood remaining neutral. Both projects are needed, both would result in savings. “If I thought one was of greater value, I’d tell you that,” Parcell said.

Board president Emily Larew pointed out that neighbors had complained for years about the stadium lights and wondered if the lights could be replaced with LED energy-saving bulbs that were directed towards the field, minimizing light pollution for the neighbors.

The answer was “Yes,” that new lights would be similar to those on the baseball field, focused down rather than diffusing into the neighborhood.

Volunteer Palisades High trench diggers cutting through pavement. Photos: Barry Vernon

That reasoning, for the school to be a better neighbor, resonated with board members, who voted for the second option.

The Palisades News asked Richard Wilken, who graduated from PaliHi in 1964 and still serves on the budget committee, to provide some historical perspective about the football lights.

He said that when Pali opened in 1961, the stadium didn’t have any lights. “The first Boosters Club organized a fundraiser where the students sold fancy chocolate candy bars to pay for stadium lights,” he said. “Football team members dug the trenches across the football field for electrical conduit runs, and local electricians provided reduced fees or volunteer labor.”

Wilken said the telephone company or a power utility helped get a reduced price and even donated wood poles.

Those poles, which are from the 1962-63 installation, still support the light fixtures.

“The light fixtures were second-hand airport runway lights,” Wilken continued. “My job, along with other student volunteers, was to install all the metal climbing pegs on the sides of the wooden poles before they were erected. My climbing pegs are still in place.”

He believes the original runway light fixtures were replaced about 15-20 years ago.

In 1962-63, PaliHi football players volunteered to dig this trench for an electrical conduit to keep costs down and help the school afford to install stadium lights. Photo: Barry Vernon
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