When HOK Sport Venue Event discussed lighting for the $175 million ballpark formerly known as Jacobs Field, dental hygiene never entered the architects’ minds.
Nevertheless, the 19 light stanchions that today tower over Progressive Field (three behind the scoreboard, six behind first base, six behind third base and four in right field) are referred to by fans and players alike as “toothbrush lights” for their rows of bulbs and handle-like poles.
Originally, the design team considered a bank of horizontal lights, but it wasn’t best suited to the game. “It’s hard to track the ball that way,” says Jim Chibnall, senior project designer. “The vertical arrangement works so when the ball is in flight, the outfielder can see it.”
When the ballpark opened in 1994, it was the first time the lighting arrangement was used in a Major League Baseball venue. “The lights set a real interesting entryway to the city,” says Chibnall. They were so unusual at the time they were even worked into the Jacobs Field logo. They’ve since cropped up other places, including Detroit’s Comerica Park. “It’s a unique solution to lighting,” says Chibnall, “and it has grown on people.”