Concerns over light poles at Texas stadiums

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by By STEVE STOLER / WFAA-TV

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Posted on April 15, 2009 at 10:23 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 19 at 4:59 PM

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Steve Stoler reports.

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SANGER - Lighting towers can stretch 75 to 90 feet into the sky. You pass by dozens a day and probably don't think anything about them.

But what if the slim poles that support all that light were to fall?

That scenario has already played out at several Texas football fields, and there have already been incidents in North Texas: One pole toppled in Midlothian and two fell in Sanger.

Most recently, substantial cracks were found on poles at Southlake's Dragon Stadium.

But this could be an even bigger problem.

A Sanger ISD electrician was removing wires from a fallen light pole when the unthinkable happened: Another tower, 50 yards away, came crashing down.

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School districts are unable to pursue liability claims.

"We don't trust any of the poles," said Sanger ISD Superintendent Jack Biggerstaff. "We will replace all 14 poles."

School district officials found cracks at the base of a third pole, one of six discovered in the last six months, and eight since 2007.

"It happened when no players were out here, no parents. I think the school district handled it really well," said Derrick Knight, a parent.

Two light towers toppled at sports fields the Austin area, one in Round Rock and another in Buda, where it left a hole in the gymnasium roof.

Southlake heard about the problems, and concerns about the integrity of the support poles led to the decision to close Dragon Stadium and replace the towers. But that process has been delayed because protected red tail hawks are nesting in the lighting fixtures.

All the failing poles were sold by Whitco, a former Fort Worth company that was sold nine years ago and subsequently declared bankruptcy. A group of investors later bought the company's name only.

School districts like Sanger are unable to pursue liability claims.

"I don't know how we're going to be able to recover any money from those people," Biggerstaff said. "We do have our own insurance carrier who is going to be doing something to help us, particularly with the two poles that fell."

Replacing those lighting towers is expensive; the poles alone cost $8,000.

Baseball and softball games are now starting earlier, so there's no need for lights.

News 8 also spoke with the Texas Department of Transportation. They told us that the light poles along North Texas highways and interstates were not produced by the company responsible for the problem stadium lighting fixtures.

But in response to those problems, they're now making vendors and suppliers conduct ultrasonic testing from this point forward.

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