Stadium scoreboard light pollution

Geoffrey Sirc

HereâÄôs a great memory: New YearâÄôs Eve, 1996, at my friendâÄôs house in Grand Marais, Minn. It was very, very cold. We were huddled inside playing charades and trying to catch every drop of heat the wood stove put out. My friend went out to get more wood for the stove and came in yelling, âÄúEveryone outside! Northern Lights!âÄù We went out into mucous-membrane-crystallizing, way-below-zero temperatures and stood spellbound at the wild, surreal, sky-warping play of greens, dark greens, light greens and yellows. Truly majestic. Yes, what a memory. And for those of you whoâÄôd like a cheap, cut-rate, knock-off version of that natural wonder, let me urge you to stroll on over to Prospect Park sometime after sunset any night of the week to see the sky lit up with what we might now call Southeastern Lights. Better yet, donâÄôt bother. ItâÄôs way too depressing. People in my neighborhood are reeling at one of the many unplanned-for side-effects of the new football stadium: the appalling light pollution that now ruins the night sky because someone feels itâÄôs incredibly important to have that screwball scoreboard on all the time. You canâÄôt just look outside now and appreciate the wonders of nature, the cold quietude of a winter evening settling in. Instead, you now have the sky riddled and hopping in freakish, mechanically timed precision with weird dancing pinks and whites and blues. ItâÄôs unnatural, unaesthetic, unsettling and unwanted. What gives the University of Minnesota the right to trump natureâÄôs serenity and ruin the night sky? WeâÄôve already taken a hit for the team and put up with the stadium noise and the massive influx of suburban fans parking on our side-streets six times a year. But this is entirely uncalled-for. Why must you have that bizarre, boring, hallucinatory luminescence going on when nobodyâÄôs in the stadium? In no way shape or form did I or my neighbors agree to live next door to a bad-production-values, Speilberg wannabe. As a department chairman, IâÄôm in meeting after meeting lately at which IâÄôm confronted with budget cut realities that leave everyone wondering about how weâÄôre going to continue to offer a quality educational product with shrinking financial resources. Yet we have money for this? Please, for the psychic well-being of all my fellow-residents, whoeverâÄôs in charge of this nonsense, Bob or Tom or Kathy or the Regents, please pull the plug on evening scoreboard light pollution and restore the night sky to the way nature intended and save precious dollars that can better be spent on the educational and research mission of this University. Geoffrey Sirc University faculty