Reinvestment in Dow Diamond

Against the steely gray backdrop of a rather cool October morning sky, the basket at the end of the crane near the top of the first base side light pole at Dow Diamond was a bit bigger than a thumbnail if you held it up at arm’s length, but not by much.

“Cable up,” radioes one of the basket’s inhabitants to the crane operator as he maneuvers the basket seemingly in circles around the pole as the second basket worker tries to maneuver a set of stadium’s new LED lighting - at the end of a cable from a second crane - into place so it could be attached, holes drilled and electrical wiring secured.

The first pole, the first new lights, and the first ripping out of the old wiring are always the hardest, say more than one of the workers from riggers Bierlein Companies, Blasy Electric, and Musoc Lighting.

For Bierlein’s  crane operators -  Mike Davert, Richard Kearns and Chad Ursury - and the two men in the basket looking down at them - Harold Brandt of Bierlein and electrician Justin Mowery of Blasy, both of Midland, the aerial dance had begun the day before and will continue for three weeks, according to Bierlein’ supervisor Jason Spindler of Midland.

Says Great Lakes Loons President and  General Manager Chris Mundhenk, the “north of $835,000” lighting project this fall has been a low-key, yet highly visible project and is part of a greater three-year $4.7 capital improvement effort begun this year and is slated to be completed by 2025.

“These investments will allow us to meet the new Minor League Baseball standards (approved in 2021) while at the same time maintaining our high infrastructure standards for Dow Diamond for the (Great Lakes Loons) player development and for private events.”

Justin Mowery, Blasy; Harold Brandt & James Mitchell, Bierlien, Mike Ireland, Musco Lighting, Jason Spindler, Bierlein
Most of the other improvements, Mundhenk says, are less visible, including a new female locker room, an umpires’ locker room, new space for coaches in the dugouts, wall padding all the way around the outfield for outfielder safety, an enhanced film room and new netting, at a cost of $1.5 million, extending from bullpen to bullpen instead of dugout to dugout for increased guest safety.

“Most of the other projects no one will notice,” he says, including the $650,000 infield and outfield turf and drainage replacement scheduled for next year.
Lighting installation along right field line at Dow Diamond.
In fairness to the public’s reactions to other stadium improvements, not many of those employ a 350-ton, 200-plus foot boom crane, plus additional 135-ton and 55-ton cranes, not to mention dangling two human beings for days in a basket on the end of a cable in all of nature’s elements until the last connection is made and bolt tightened.

Mundhenk said each of the six light poles will require about two to three days of attention from Blasy and Bierlein installers.

Mike Ireland, representative for Musco Lighting of Oskaloosa, Iowa, that provided the LED lights says the new lights will put Dow Diamond on par with stadiums across the nation. Musco did the original lighting too, the halogen lighting installed when the stadium was built in 2007. “About 99 percent of the lighting at the baseball stadiums you see on television are LED lighting,” he notes as he works organizing the hardware .

Mundhenk says the lights, after adjusting and testing, will usher in a new ambience to the stadium experience. First, because each of the lights are individually focused, preset to work in tandem with each other, there will be few dark spots. Second, because additional lighting will be more focused, the field itself will be better and more evenly lit, and the baseballs themselves will be easier to track.
The lighting is part of a three year, $4.7 million capital project.
The system, called the Sports Cluster Total Light Control system  will make the field much brighter, so much brighter, he predicts, that additional lighting might have to be installed on the concourse so that it doesn’t appear to be darker than it does now. At the same time, it will reduce glare and light spillage.

“We are fortunate now to have 360-degree concourse lighting,” Mundhenk says, “All the way around the infield and outfield. But we will have to wait and see.”

Bierlein’s James Mitchell of Wheeler, who along with Spindler and Spitnale, says much of the system has been preset, but the lights still have to be aligned, and the workers in the basket need all the hardware setup to attach the lights to the pole.

The LED system employs about half the number of lights for each one of the six poles and promises increased efficiency. Mundhenk says Musco was chosen to retrofit their system because it offers Control Link, which helps control the lighting 24/7 via computer or smart phone, allows for the use of special effects for baseball and for private events, and is guaranteed to maintain its performance for 25 years.

Don Blasy, retired president of Blasy Electric Inc., who was responsible for the
installation of the original field lighting at Dow Diamond, noted that the labor in 2007 was provided locally by electricians Mark Stevens, Heath Hage and Brian Majeske and crane assistance was headed by Bill Samsel of Bierlein Companies. The original lighting installed at Dow Diamond in 2007 was metal halide and was furnished by Chuck Lindstrom of Universal

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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at