Let there be light: Manuka ready for night shift

Wayne Webster works on the lights at Manuka Oval on Wednesday. Pat Delaney overlooks Manuka Oval.

The lights are taking shape at the picturesque ground.

Before West Indian master-blaster Chris Gayle targets the Australian bowling attack, the newest additions to Canberra’s skyline are getting their own workout.

Manuka Oval’s transformation into an elite sporting ground is another step closer to completion, with the first of its six light towers undergoing target testing on Wednesday.

It is hoped the lights will be turned on for the first time at the end of next week.

That will leave plenty of time before their inaugural public appearance for the Prime Minister’s XI day-night cricket match with the West Indies on January 29, followed by the Australian cricket team’s first visit to Canberra on February 6.

The intricate process involves workers climbing the 47-metre pylons to individually align the 94 lights on each to a specific marker on the ground’s surface.

They look through a crosshair – similar to one used on a sniper rifle – to ensure each light hits its mark before moving on to the next.

Each tower contains four different types of light – wide, medium, narrow and extra-narrow – which are fanned out to ensure an equal coverage on the playing surface.

The process takes about one day for each tower, after which crews begin the task of flicking the switch and calibrating the lux – or illuminance – readings of the lights.

For cricket, the readings need to be a minimum of 2500 lux in the centre of the ground, dropping to 1200 on the boundary, while for AFL they need to be 2500 for the entire surface.

Design criteria was set by the National Capital Authority to ensure the lights blended into the inner-south suburb.

Black louvres are installed on each light to prevent spill outside the ground, reducing the impact on residents nearby.

This combats a problem similar to the one English-based company Abacus encountered when it installed lights at Lord’s.

Having completed projects at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, as well as in India, Bangladesh and the West Indies, project co-ordinator Dean Hargreaves was pleased with how the Manuka Oval installation was progressing.

”In terms of commissioning it’s exactly the same as what we’ve done at Lord’s and Trent Bridge,” Hargreaves said.

”It’s got the same louvres on for environmental impact and light pollution. We checked it after in the residents’ houses and found the readings were within the planning constraints, so we’re not expecting any problems here.”

The lights will also allow night AFL games to be played in Canberra for the first time, with the Greater Western Sydney Giants set to face St Kilda on April 13.

ACT government project consultant Ron Maginness said the lights would be the most sophisticated at any sporting ground in Australia.

”Most of the other light towers that have been installed are close to 20 years old, so this is the latest and newest installation,” Maginness said.

”There’s no head frames or light towers that are inclined like this anywhere, so in terms of the engineering of the mast, it’s quite specific to Manuka Oval.”

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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