Despair not?

We used to call Edison High School’s Charles Magnasco Stadium in Stockton “the pit of despair” because its lights were the poorest in the county. It was so dark, that even going back to the days of black and white film, we couldn’t bump up the ISO high enough to get a decent exposure. Using a flash was a requirement, and with it the red-eye effect and the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look was inevitable. What made things worse was that, at one time, all Stockton Unified School District high schools — Edison, Stagg and Franklin — used that field (fortunately all the schools as well as newer Chavez High now have their own stadiums).

So when it was announced last year that the 60-year-old stadium was going to get a makeover, it was to the joy and relief of every photographer at the Record. (Yippee! Hooray! Huzzah!) Although no one consulted the Record photo staff on lighting, we figured that anything had to be better than what was there before (even Edison athletic director Richie Lynch likened the old lights to shining a couple of flashlights on the field). Construction for the new $5 million field, which will feature artificial FieldTurf surrounded by a nine-lane synthetic track, began earlier this year.

I had an assignment at Edison recently, so I decided to take a look at how construction was coming along. It’s still in the early stages, so there’s a long way yet to go before the stadium’s completion.

I noticed that new light standards have been placed. Curiously, only four (two on each side) now stand where there once had been eight. Even more puzzling was the placement of the poles. The old ones had been in front of the bleachers, the new lights are now positioned behind the stands, about 20 to 25 yards back from where the original ones stood. The inverse square law states that the strength of light is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the light’s source. In other words, the amount of light falls off exponentially the farther it is from its source. In this case the farther the lights are away from the field, the dimmer they will be.

But all hope may not yet be lost. Lighting technology has come along way in 60 years. It is possible that Edison’s new lights will be more efficient and brighter than the ones they replace, despite their lesser number and farther distance. Matt Stolp with the San Jose-based general contractor Robert A. Bothman, Inc., says the new lights are very bright, almost like daylight.

Head varsity football coach Andre Horace said that it won’t be done until about next March, well after this year’s football season is over. This fall, the Vikings will be playing their home games at Franklin, Chavez and a brand new field at Stagg.

The stadium renovations are a part of a larger construction project that will also include new baseball, softball, soccer and tennis facilities. The entire project will be named Charles Washington Athletics Complex. I talked with Lynch, who told me that a decision hasn’t been made on whether to keep the current name of Charles Magnasco Stadium or to change it. But will we be changing our nickname for the Edison field or will it continue to be the pit of despair? Not having seen the lights in action, it’s too soon to say. I’m hoping for the best, but we’ll just have to wait until next season to find out.

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