By ERWIN CHLANDA
Bruce Walker, the leading cricket administrator in the NT, is making a case for flood lights at Albrecht Oval. He says it is used by football as well as cricket, alongside locals from people doing tai chi to walking their dog.
The project, in general terms, dates back more than eight years. Late last year residents near the Albrecht oval were invited to comment through a letterbox drop and advertising.
However, only two residents and one coach turned up to the first meeting, attended by six council officers, four councillors and one consultant engineer, according to council CEO Rex Mooney.
No residents turned up for the second meeting.
Yet there is now a “level of interest” which Mr Mooney thinks has been triggered by the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics advertising an application for an Exceptional Development Permit.
It is needed because at 34.5 metres, the proposed four towers would exceed the height limit in the area. (The Traeger Park light towers are 52 meters.)
The deadline for public submissions is June 15.
Lighting was initially raised in the master plan for sporting facilities in 2010, “particularly for winter training such as soccer and AFL as well as summer competitions and training, including athletics,” says the council’s acting director of Technical Services, Stephen Baloban.
Last year the NT Government agreed to match the council’s $600,000 budget for the Albrecht project, making its total estimated cost $1.2m, says Mr Mooney.
However, Dr Walker says now a petition is being circulated to knock the project on the head, on the grounds of light spill and obstruction of the view to the MacDonnell Ranges.
But there are significant advantages for the town and its economy as well as the sports people who use the facility, says Dr Walker.
“If we want to attract people to Alice Springs we need to be able to offer attractive sporting options,” says Dr Walker.
“Being able to play your sport after hours and out of the midday sun is increasingly important.
Both football and cricket could extend their games and training into the early evening hours particularly as global warming makes more of the daylight unsuitable.”
Dr Walker says many ovals around the country are erecting lights for that reason, attracting new residents and sporting events.
There are four ovals in Darwin having or getting flood lighting, and in Queensland where towns will compete with Alice Springs as destinations to hold national events.
The National Indigenous Cricket Championship (NICC) brings 500 people into town for 10 days in February each year. Being able to play evening fixtures at Albrecht Oval would provide a significant boost to be able to grow the event and the towns economy.
Dr Walker says that we will struggle to retain the national carnival without additional lighting to that which is available at Traeger Park.
He says: “I appreciate some people may be concerned because it is difficult to imagine what the towers might look like and how much light they will distribute.
“Light spill is a problem. Expressed in lux, the Albrecht towers would be designed to provide 750 lux at the very centre of the oval to begin with but this would reduce to around 600 once the lights are bedded in.
“A common mistake in community consultations of this sort is to just reduce the lighting level to a compromised value because ultimately the lights are not sufficient for safe usage and the investment is wasted.
“Football needs less light than cricket because they use a larger ball but in order to get the best efficiency out of the facility it needs to be able to cater for all users all year round.
“Most importantly, new technology manages to concentrate the light on the playing field, and very little spills.”
There is a 2 lux perimeter spill (see aerial photo) – none of it reaching into “the back yards”.
Dr Walker says a computer screen emits 30 to 50 lux. The highest level of spill (10 lux) falls on the open stormwater drain at the back of the oval.
The lights would be used infrequently, he says. For example, the Traeger lights are only used over six weekends on Saturday nights from late November to mid December, then six nights in mid February for the NICC.
Albrecht Oval is the only other oval in Alice Springs that is suitable for the level of lighting required and the quality of the playing facilities, particularly the turf wicket.
There are about 3000 sport participants registered with the council as using municipal playing fields.
Dr Walker says a third of them are AFL and cricket players using Albrecht at some time.
He is surprised about the recent opposition: “I would have thought residents would welcome the extended use of their community facility, given the investment already made in the car parking and community hall.”
Dr Walker is the president of both the Alice Springs and the NT cricket associations.
IMAGES: Aerial photo of the Albrecht oval and surrounds. The concentric lines show the light spill in lux. The red one denotes the 2 lux spill, followed (going outwards) 0.5, 0.1 and 0.1 lux. Dr Walker says a computer screen emits 30 to 50 lux • The AFL Northern Territory started this petition to Darwin City Council, under the motto “get our NT kids out of the heat, give them lights at Gardens to play”. The online campaign says: “817 have signed. Let’s get to 1,000.”