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Dark Thoughts on a Bright Field

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Maybe Edison needs to turn the power down.

Squinting drivers on the Orange Freeway say the glare from the lights of Edison Field has them seeing red, and a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman said her agency has contacted stadium officials to ask if they can mute the dazzling ballpark lights and parking lot electronic billboard.

“We’ve been in contact with them but I don’t know what has been resolved,” CHP Officer Angel Johnson said Wednesday. “Drivers are calling us and saying the lights are so bright it’s blinding them.”

A Caltrans spokeswoman said her agency has also gotten complaints, primarily from motorists who said the bright electronic message board affixed to the landmark “Big A” and surrounding spotlights in the parking lot are “really a hindrance” to their vision.

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The venue and its home team, the Anaheim Angels, are owned by Disney, which spent $117 million to renovate the 32-year-old stadium before the baseball season started April 1. The stadium bears the name of Edison International, the utility giant that is paying a reported $1.4 million a year for the honor.

A chunk of the ballpark’s east side was carved out during the remodeling to open up a view of the freeway and the mountains beyond. But now some say the opened stadium may be creating a glowing distraction for freeway motorists, along with the electronic message board that sits far closer to the freeway’s southbound lanes.

Don Leavey of Huntington Beach, for example, says the shimmering lights of the 45,050-seat ballpark and the electronic sign out front overwhelm him when he drives past, a danger he worried about when he first heard about the redesign.

“My fears are not only realized, but the danger appears to be far greater than I anticipated, especially on a rainy night,” said Leavey, pointing out that slick roads and mist amplify the glare.

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Discussion of the bright lights drew puzzled reactions from stadium and Edison officials who said Wednesday they were completely in the dark on the matter. “When you’re opening a new facility there’s always going to be issues, but this hasn’t been one of them,” said Tim Mead, a spokesman for Anaheim Sports.

Stadium officials point out that the tall towers of ballpark lights that shine on the field were not changed during the renovations, and the east walls that were removed only returned the ballpark back to a configuration it had in the 1970s. Lights were recently added, however, to illuminate the towering “Big A.”

While Mead said ballpark lights are too far from the freeway to pose a problem, he acknowledged that Caltrans cited the “Big A” as a possible problem spot for drivers.

Caltrans got several phone calls from drivers who said the powerful lights of the message board created a troublesome glare, especially during recent stormy weather. A traffic engineer is investigating the issue, she said.

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“The drivers told us visibility was a problem because of the weather and then with the sign there were several seconds where they could not see at all,” said Rose Orem, a Caltrans spokeswoman. “But it doesn’t seem to be as much of a problem on a clear night.”

Stadium officials said Wednesday they were interested in any safety issues related to the lights, and may be looking into the matter further.

“If there was a valid issue with this we would be doing everything in our power to correct it,” said Bob Wagner, another Anaheim Sports spokesman. “We would not be in a position to ignore it.”

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

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Blinded by the Light

Some southbound motorists passing Edison International Field at Anaheim have glaring problems with the stadium’s new look:

Larger computer message board on The Big A causes glare in bad weather

Opening east side of stadium allows light from standards to spill over onto freeway

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Source: Edison International Field of Anaheim


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