LIGHTING COMERICA PARK IN DETROIT, ONE POLE AT A TIME

Located within the theatre district in downtown Detroit, Comerica Park, the new home of the Detroit Tigers, warmly embraces the past while offering patrons numerous modern amenities. The stadium seats 40,000 fans, with 15,000 of those in the upper bowl. There are no outfield seats in the upper bowl, which gives patrons an unobstructed view of the downtown skyline. There are also 102 luxury suites and family-friendly features such as a tiger-laden carousel (ornate and hand-painted), a ferris wheel with 12 baseball-shaped cars, and a stylized fountain provided by Waltzing Waters.

The history of the franchise is also celebrated, with statues of five Tiger Hall of Fame players in left centerfield, as well as four decade monuments placed around the concourse, which take patrons on a trip through time, celebrating the glorious past of the team through photos and memorabilia. The facility, which covers over 788,000 sq. ft. (70,920 sq. m), opened to the public in late April.

A number of firms participated in the construction of Comerica Park, including Smithgroup Incorporated, (architect of record), HOK Sport (design architect), and Rockwell Group (entertainment architect). M-E Engineers of Denver handled the general lighting in the facility, while the specialty lighting package was done by Illuminating Concepts of Farmington Hills, MI. "Our objective was to provide the necessary lighting and to enhance the architectural elements with light sources concealed as much as possible," says M-E Engineers project manager Adam Dent.

One of the first things visitors notice about Comerica Park (which local media types have dubbed "the Copa") is that it fits seamlessly into the neighborhood where it is located. "We started talking very early on in the project about how to make the stadium fit into the urban fabric of the city," notes Illuminating Concepts design director Kenneth Klemmer. "So we took a trip around Detroit with the lead architect on the project, looking at streetlights." To their surprise, they found over 20 different types in the city, the earliest dating from 1895.

One of the most distinctive was one of the earliest, which was produced until the 1920s, and may have been produced and modified into the 1950s. The idea of reproduction poles wasn't the most popular, or the most cost-effective, so the Illuminating Concepts team began looking at what was available on the retail market. "We looked at some presently manufactured poles for cost reasons," Klemmer admits. "But we just couldn't find anything that had the flavor of the city. So we pressed on, since the custom poles were really right for the job. Our proposed vintage fixture fit very nicely into the scale of the stadium, it had the capability of carrying several circuits and additional weight for floodlights, and it's certainly unique - we haven't found anyplace else in the country that has utilized this pole."

The pole was originally made in spruce or Douglas fir with cast-iron fittings, and topped with either a single- or double-mount head. "After quite a bit of research, we found that the Esplanade head by Holophane, which is available in a 250W version, mimicked almost exactly the original head in the historic photos," Klemmer says. "Once we found the head, we wanted to recreate the rest of the pole as authentically as possible."

The Illuminating Concepts team got the Detroit Tigers organization, as well as its parent company, interested in the vintage poles, and, after obtaining an original from a salvage yard, a new mold was cast and a prototype was built at Holophane's factory in Mexico. "To get them to actually build the first fixture was quite a time-consuming endeavor," Klemmer admits. "When everyone committed to making the molds and doing this aspect of the project, we were about six months behind schedule. From beginning to end, it took about 19 weeks to manufacture them, when the original estimate was over a year."

There are a total of 108 poles, which are 23 1/2' tall (7m), in the vicinity of Comerica Park. The shafts themselves are simply a modified stock steel pole. "It's essentially an off-the-shelf fixture clad in historic cast-iron materials," Klemmer reports. Consequently, if a vehicle collides with one of the poles, "They are so heavily built that the car will get towed away before the pole is damaged," Klemmer says.

The custom streetlights of course provide much-needed illumination for the area. To reinforce a feeling of security, the client desired a minimum of 10fc in the streets and parking lots. "Vertical illuminance was also a strong consideration since the things you want to see at night - cars and people - are most visible on their vertical surfaces," Klemmer notes. To achieve this level of illumination, it was determined that the 250W Holophane head would be inadequate. "After a bit of convincing, Holophane did some experimentation and made a 400W version of the head for us."

This proved the answer to the illumination level problem. "When we got them up and installed, they actually performed even better than we anticipated," Klemmer reports. "In the middle of the street, at the furthest point between streetlights, the minimum light level we measured was 12fc, with most areas averaging 14 initial footcandles," he explains. "That's not bad, considering that most city streetlights give out 1-2fc of light," he concludes.

The streetlights also contribute to the facade lighting of Comerica Park. Using a raceway mounting system on the pole itself, the Illuminating Concepts team was able to find additional lighting positions for use on the facade. The raceways, which are 42", 78", or 102", allowed a variety of instruments to be mounted to the streetlights. "For the exterior facade lighting, we used a mix of 500W Thorn/Northstar PAR-64 Sunspots, as well as 100W Exterieur Vert SP1 100 PAR-38 MasterColor metal-halides," Klemmer says. "The Sunspots are primarily used to give us high output lighting in the major entrances, while the Exterieur Verts are used to illuminate the stone tiger heads which are themed into the exterior walls of the facility."

The most notable aspects of Comerica Park may well be those that are visible only on the exterior of the structure. Early in the project, Illuminating Concepts saw theatrical potential in the stadium, and developed the concept of using High End Systems EC-1[TM] architectural luminaires for a color wash on the exterior of the upper bowl. The lights could be used on a 24/7 basis to add interest to the architecture of the facility, but also in conjunction with the interior specialty lighting and audio system that is used to indicate when one of the Tigers hits a home run.

"The High End equipment has an ambient color wash sequence that it normally goes through," reports Illuminating Concepts studio director Keith Irtenkauf. "But when a home run is hit by the Tigers, the EC-1s go white and then start to strobe, which lets people outside of the facility know what's going on in the stadium."

There are 34 EC-1s circling the facility, mounted on the main support columns underneath the upper bowl. Although the weather in Detroit can be fickle - from blistering hot and humid summers to freezing winters - the team at Illuminating Concepts has faith in the luminaires. "My feeling is that the humidity, water, and cold are ultimately less killer for that gear than continued high temperature in an arid climate," comments Illuminating Concepts president Ron Harwood.

Moving inside Comerica Park, the concourse, which circles the entire venue, is illuminated primarily by 175W and 100W metal-halide Hydrel 7200A architectural floods. To accent the steel structure of the concourse, the M-E Engineers team used 100W metal-halide PAR-38s (model BAL) from Greenlee Lighting, both of which were painted "Tiger Green" to theme into the structure itself. "The concourse lighting was designed to perform double duty - while providing basic circulation lighting, the luminaires also selectively reveal the steel of the stadium," explains Krystof Pavek, senior lighting designer at M-E Engineers. "The main concourse lighting was also downplayed to a degree in order to allow the decade monuments to become a focal point of the concourse," Dent adds. For the monuments, Illuminating Concepts used 12 MasterColor PAR-38 100W adjustable spots, mounted to the unistrut grid in the ceiling.

Comerica Park is also home to 118 Diversitronics Dome Cannon strobes, which are another facet of the specialty lighting package. "Originally, we designed the strobes to be mounted on the exterior of the lighting towers in the field," explains Irtenkauf. "Because of the difficulty of maintenance, we decided to move them inside the sunshade over the upper bowl." The strobes are on 15' (4.6m) centers, and are fired in a variety of pre-programmed patterns when a Tiger hits a home run. "We can really bring the people in the far side of the stadium together with the opposite side of the stadium," comments Irtenkauf. "Actually, we got a great effect out of the strobes, almost all of which performed flawlessly out of the box. By mounting the fixtures under the sunshade, you can see the effect from the outside of the stadium as well as the inside."

The field of Comerica Park is illuminated by 16 enormous light towers consisting of 1.5kW and 2kW Musco and GE Sports Light fixtures, and maintains 280fc of balanced illumination across the massive playing field. "The sports lighting meets or exceeds the design of the newer stadiums built in the last few years," Dent notes. From the towers that dominate the field to the vintage streetlights, the lighting design at Comerica Park is definitely something that makes patrons stand up and cheer.