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California and the West

Anaheim Drivers Say Lights From Stadium Are Blinding

April 30, 1998|GEOFF BOUCHER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Maybe Edison needs to turn the power down.

Squinting drivers on the Orange Freeway say the glare from the lights of Edison Field has them seeing red, and a California Highway Patrol spokeswoman said her agency has contacted officials of the Anaheim Angels' ballpark to ask if they can mute the dazzling lights and parking lot electronic billboard.

"Drivers are calling us and saying the lights are so bright it's blinding them," CHP Officer Angel Johnson said Wednesday. "We've been in contact with them, but I don't know what has been resolved."

A California Department of Transportation spokeswoman said her agency has also gotten complaints, primarily from drivers who said the bright electronic message board affixed to the landmark "Big A" sign and the lights in the parking lot are "really a hindrance" to their vision.

The venue and its home team, the Angels, are owned by Disney, which spent $117 million to renovate the 32-year-old stadium before the baseball season started April 1. The stadium, formerly called Anaheim Stadium, bears the name of Edison International, the utility giant that is reportedly paying $1.4 million a year for the honor.

A chunk of the ballpark's east side was carved out during the remodeling to open up a view of the freeway and the mountains beyond. But now some say the opened stadium may be creating a glowing distraction for freeway motorists.

Don Leavey of Huntington Beach, for example, says the shimmering lights of the 45,050-seat ballpark and the electronic sign out front overwhelm him when he drives past, a danger he worried about when he first heard about the redesign.

"My fears are not only realized, but the danger appears to be far greater than I anticipated, especially on a rainy night," Leavey said.

Stadium officials point out that the tall towers of lights that shine on the field were not changed during the renovations, and the east walls that were removed only returned the ballpark to a configuration it had in the 1970s. Lights were recently added, however, to illuminate the towering "Big A" sign.

Although Tim Mead, a spokesman for Disney's Anaheim Sports, said ballpark lights are too far from the freeway to pose a problem, he acknowledged that Caltrans cited the "Big A" as a possible problem spot for drivers.

Caltrans has received several phone calls from drivers who said the powerful lights of the message board created a troublesome glare, especially during recent stormy weather.

"The drivers told us visibility was a problem because of the weather and then with the sign there were several seconds where they could not see at all," said Rose Orem, a Caltrans spokeswoman. "But it doesn't seem to be as much of a problem on a clear night."

Stadium officials said Wednesday they were interested in any safety issues related to the lights.

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