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How Electricity Changed Baseball

by On May 9 2017

Baseball season is finally underway again, and once more, hope springs eternal for fans of America’s national pastime. The game has been played in the United States since at least 1846 and has now spread throughout the world, becoming the most popular sport in places such as Venezuela, Japan, and Cuba. While baseball has been popular for a very long time, it received an extra boost after the advent of electricity. Finally, games could be played at night, when more people were off work.

A team from Independence, Kansas, lays claim to hosting the first-ever nighttime home game on April 28, 1930. Later that decade, the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro National League became the first team to travel with their own floodlights. Attendance at their games more than doubled, and baseball’s electrified era was underway.

Electricity has played a big role in professional baseball in Texas, particularly in Houston. In addition to lights, the Astrodome was the first baseball stadium to utilize air conditioning in the 1960s. Today, Houston’s Minute Maid Park also uses electricity to power its retractable roof.

Houston is hardly alone in using a great deal of electricity to give fans the most comfortable game experience possible. Each season, hundreds of thousands of tickets are sold as fans pile into stadiums across the country and enjoy amenities ranging from rooftop bars and Ferris wheels to full swimming pools. Powering amenities like this is no small feat. In fact, it often takes more than 30 million kWh to power a single MLB baseball stadium for a season, or more than 3,000 average American homes use in a year.

The electricity bills for our favorite ballparks can cost upwards of $1 million per year. For playoff teams who play more than the traditional 81 home games, that number can go up even more. It takes a lot of energy to power all of the jumbotrons, screens, televisions, and restaurants within the stadium.

All that juice has led some major-league ballparks to take dramatic steps toward energy efficiency. Leading the way has been Safeco Field in Seattle. In 2014, the Seattle Mariners made history when they became the first MLB team to light up their home field with LED Lights. The field is illuminated with 578 GigaTera light fixtures that are 30 percent brighter than their old counterparts, but use 50 percent fewer watts. Just these lights save 784,000 kWh per season and more than $50,000 in energy costs. The organization is now able to save more than $1 million per year, just from reducing their energy and waste costs!

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