Stadium lights cost $100 to run nightly

Although the lights at Amon Carter Stadium are on for football games, practice, maintenance and more, the electrical systems manager said the operating cost is far less than some expect. George Bates, manager of electrical systems at TCU’s Physical Plant, said lighting the football stadium for one night costs about $100.

“It’s not as much as you think when you’re dealing with larger entities like the stadium,” said Ross Bailey, associate director of athletics.

Bates said TCU uses TXU Energy as its electricity provider, which is one of the most expensive electric companies in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, charging 15 cents per kilowatt hour, according to However, Bates said TCU has a special contract with TXU Energy, which gives the university a less expensive rate.

Regardless, TCU uses electricity to light the stadium and the intramural field for numerous nights of sports practice, maintenance, football games and intramural field events.

Most recently, according to the University Recreation Center’s Web site, flag football games for men’s and women’s teams have required that the intramural field lights be on Monday through Thursday and on Sunday nights.

The stadium lights are left on about four times per week for football games and basketball games, according to the sports schedules on Bailey said one row of stadium lights is left on during nights when there are basketball game because it provides safety in the parking lots.

The lights that shine on TCU’s intramural fields and in the football stadium are complicated to turn on and off, but all are turned off when facilities aren’t in use to conserve energy, Bailey said.

The stadium light system is about 50 years old, so instead of a simple light switch, giant switches that are moved back and forth are responsible for the stadium’s electricity, he said.

Bailey said those switches are kept “under lock and key.”

“There’s not someone who has the specific job of turning the lights on or off,” Bailey said. “There are about three or four of us who do it.”

Even more complicated than the stadium light system is the intramural field light system, which is controlled from a company based in Iowa, said Cristie Carpenter, associate director of intramural sports and sport clubs. On/off times are sent to the Physical Plant for programming via e-mail- – sometimes weeks in advance, she said.

Carpenter said she does everything she can to shut the lights off if games end early, but because the system is computer-operated, the lights might be left on when no one is on the fields, she said.

“We try our best to conserve as much energy as we can,” Carpenter said. “It’s hard to turn our lights off when they are prescheduled by computer for a given amount of time.”

A manual switch would be helpful and would require less planning ahead, Carpenter said.

“I had to schedule the current light schedule back in September,” Carpenter said. “I’d love to have a switch – it would really help.”

Bailey said the Physical Plant is staffed 24 hours a day, so if the stadium lights were on at some time for no reason, the Athletics Department would be immediately informed. He said the university doesn’t waste energy if it can help it.

“We’d be the first to hear if the lights were on when they shouldn’t be,” Bailey said. “The director over in the Physical Plant would send me an e-mail right away.”

Kate Mashburn, a junior communication studies major, said spending money on electricity is justifiable if the stadium lights are left on for student safety.

“If it’s for safety reasons, that’s understandable,” Mashburn said. “But leaving the lights on otherwise is probably an expense (the university) could cut out.”

Bailey said he does what he can to conserve energy in the stadium.

“The lights will never be on past 10 or 10:30 p.m.,” Bailey said, “unless of course, it’s a football game day.