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Thunderbirds welcome new lights

New, $50,000 stadium lighting installed on home field Aug. 13
WES - Buchko thumbs up lighting
Westlock Football Association fundraising coordinator, Jerry Buchko, gives a thumbs up to the new stadium lighting recently installed on the Westlock Thunderbirds home field, behind Westlock Elementary School. The T-Birds kick off their regular season Sept. 16. The first game under the new lights will be the annual “Friday Night Lights” on Oct. 6.

WESTLOCK – With a flick of a switch, there’ll be lights, new lights.

The Westlock Thunderbirds football team kicks off their regular season Sept. 16 at home against Buck Lake and are eager to hit the field under new stadium lighting.  

The team welcomes Westlock and area residents to Friday Night Lights on Thursday, Oct. 6. The game will feature a pep rally at the school and a half time show. It will be the first game under the new $50,000 stadium lighting set-up, which was installed Aug. 13. 

“Now we can play at five o’clock and not worry about sunlight anymore in late October,” said Westlock Football Association fundraising coordinator Jerry Buchko. “We used to play from 4 to 6 p.m. in late October. By 6 o’clock it’s starting to get dark and it’s hard to see the ball. Now we can just turn the lights on.”   

Eight light poles, four on each side, span from end zone to end zone and now grace the Thunderbirds home field behind Westlock Elementary School. The poles stand 40-feet tall and have 12 lights atop each of them, for a total of 96 lights.

The lights have been a long time coming. In 2012, the Westlock Football Association received donations of 11 portable, temporary light towers, which they had to transport every week.

“We had to tow 10 light towers in with volunteers using their trucks and then we had to adjust the lights. They sat from Wednesday to Sunday night and then Monday morning we had to tow them all back,” said Buchko. “Now it’s just a flick of a switch — they’re quiet, they don’t make any noise.

“They’re LED lights and they come on instantly and go off instantly,” he added, noting practices by mid-October will also be held under the lights.

It took one full day to install the lights, said Buchko, noting the work was completed by eight workers including Damien George and Adam Hardinge from Fortis, Bernhard Pfaeffli and Chad Wade from Kiewit Construction, Chase Provencal and Shaun Wiese from Pro Power, Mark Littlechilds from LC Welding and a zoom boom donation from TPH in Westlock.

“Terry from TPH donated a zoom boom to lift us all the way up to adjust each individual light,” said Buchko. “This is a $50,000 operation that was all donated — time, materials, lights. The workers were here in 33-degree heat and did phenomenal work.”

Buchko said he is grateful for the business and community support for high school football over the past 16 years, and for the work and volunteer help installing the lights to make them a reality for the Westlock Football Association. Other sports groups including flag football and soccer or any community group that needs lighted, outdoor space can contact Buchko for availability.

The club’s next goal is to install a spray park and change rooms on the grounds, adjacent to the football field, that can be used by families and other sports groups in Westlock.  

The Thunderbirds began practices for the 6-man football league Aug. 31 and will begin the regular season at home Sept. 16 against Buck Lake. Kickoff is 5 p.m. They will play eight games this season with the Friday Night Lights game, Oct. 6. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.

Kristine Jean,