GHS football sign

The Gardendale football team takes the field in Driver Stadium prior to a 35-14 win over Mae Jemison on Aug. 23, 2019.

The same company installing new lights in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa is also working a similar project at Driver Stadium in Gardendale.

Musco Lighting began installing LED lights at Gardendale High School last Monday, replacing some light bulbs that were likely screwed into place well before the players on this year’s roster were born.

“It had been bad for so long, a lot of people around here didn’t even realize they were bad,” said Rockets head coach Chad Eads. “When they pulled them down, the lenses looked like the headlights on an old car.”

GHS Principal Shelton Dukes says JefCoEd has funded the $200,000 upgrade. He also thanked multiple people for their behind-the-scenes efforts, including JefCoEd Superintendent Craig Pouncey, Director of Operations Neal Underwood and each member of the Jefferson County Board of Education.

Eads, who has the Rockets off to a 2-0 start in his second season with the program, began pushing for this upgrade shortly after arriving from Hoover last year.

“We’ve been talking about this for a while,” said Eads. “As I’ve talked with the board and with [Principal Shelton] Dukes about our biggest needs, one of my things was lights. And I know we want a turf field and I think that will come with time, but we have a field; what we need our lights so we can play on that field.”

Experts were recently brought in to measure the intensity of the lights which have been shining down on Gardendale’s football field for the past quarter-century, and found them to be “far below average.”

“I think it was getting to a point to where our bleachers weren’t very well lit and it was getting unsafe for people to come… there just wasn’t a lot of light in the stadium,” said Eads. “This will help a ton.”

Musco Lighting delivered the materials last Monday and immediately began the installation process. The same poles will remain in Driver Stadium, but instead of 20 bulbs per pole, a cluster of nine LED lights (seven of which will be pointed at the playing surface while the other two spread light across the stands) will be assigned to each post.

Both Dukes and Eads are confident the lights will be ready for the Rockets’ next varsity home game, which is scheduled for Sept. 13 against Pell City. There is also a junior varsity home game scheduled for Monday, Sept. 9, four days before the varsity contest.

Erik Harris is the sports editor for The North Jefferson News. He can be reached at sports@njeffersonnews.com

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