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LED lights to brighten Rock Creek soccer fields
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The Dawson County Board of Commissioners recently voted to approve the installation of new LED light fixtures at the soccer fields in Rock Creek Park off Hwy. 9 South.

The decision was approved during the Sept. 15 meeting.

The soccer fields currently do not have a direct light source, and after dusk receive fragmented light from the baseball fields and nearby walking trail.

When the lights are installed, the three regulation soccer fields will be lit by 10 poles with LED light fixtures, lights that Dawson County Parks and Recreation Director Lisa Henson promises will be brighter, clearer and more long lasting than traditional lights.

"It's amazing the difference that LED makes compared to traditional metal halide lights," Henson said. "We'll be the first parks and rec department in the state of Georgia to have LED sports lighting."

Soccer has the biggest participation rate of any sport in the county, with 554 total park and rec players in 2016: 265 in the spring and 288 in the fall. But since the park opened in 2001, there has been no light at the soccer fields, making late practices or play after dark difficult and dangerous.

"Once the lights are installed, teams will be able to get more than one evening practice in, because right now when it gets dark everyone has to go home," Henson said.

The lights have been a long time in the planning stages, but Chairman Mike Berg is happy to finally see them come to fruition.

"I remember when everyone started talking about soccer lighting back in 2005," Berg said. "It's long overdue."

Henson said that LED lights are now much more widely available and popular than they were 15 years ago when Rock Creek opened. She also said that the parks don't currently have a plan to convert all of their lighting and fixtures to LED.

"We've not currently planning or budgeted to put LED lights in the rest of Rock Creek or at Veterans Memorial Park, though we did get tentative numbers to do that," Henson said. "As far as lighting goes, we would be more concerned with sports lighting at Veterans park next because it is so old. If we were to retrofit or install any additional sports lighting it would be to replace all of the antiquated poles that are there."

The lights are a SPLOST VI approved expenditure. The total cost of installation will be $379,227, which is around $4,000 over the budget.

Henson said the installation of new LED lights is more expensive than metal halide lighting, but will save more money in the long run.

"Based on the average projected use for these lights, over the course of the 25 year warranty period, the cost savings on electricity is about $33,000," Henson said.

Installation of the new lights is set to begin Dec.1 and will last through Jan. 31, 2017. If all goes well the lights should be up and running by Feb. 1.

The three soccer fields will not be available for practice or recreational use during the installation.