When AB reported in August that light poles manufactured by Whitco Co. LP had collapsed at multiple stadium sites since 2007, the Consumer Product Safety Commission was winding down a months-long investigation but had yet to shed its light on the matter. On Aug. 24, the commission released an alert, stating in part, "CPSC recommends that Whitco Co. LP outdoor steel stadium light poles be inspected by a qualified professional immediately to reduce the risk of poles falling over and crushing a patron or bystander."
Fortunately, despite significant structural damage resulting from nine CPSC-confirmed failures of Whitco poles installed between 2000 and 2006, the commission is unaware of a single reported injury. That said, even poles that show signs of defects but remain standing can wreak havoc on athletic department operations. This month, visible cracks in four poles forced administrators at North Point High School in Charles County, Md., to reschedule or relocate games and practices involving its football, field hockey, and boys' and girls' soccer teams until the poles could be removed. ROTC exercises and physical education classes were displaced, as well. "With the information we have now, we are not taking any chances," Charles County Public Schools superintendent James Richmond stated in a release. "The result of not removing the poles could be devastating." Days later, University of Arkansas-Monticello athletic director Chris Ratcliff announced that cracks found in the base plates of poles surrounding Convoy Leslie-Cotton Boll Stadium would shut down not only that facility until welders could make repairs, but the adjacent Steelman Fieldhouse and a nearby residence hall, too. "It's just been a very stressful time ever since we discovered the problem," Ratcliff told the Pine Bluff Commercial. Such discoveries serve to reinforce the need for every institution that hosts activities on lighted fields to heed the CPSC's advice and have poles inspected immediately and regularly, and - as Wesley Oliphant of ReliaPOLE Solutions Inc. told us this summer - preferably by a licensed professional engineer experienced in the design and manufacture of poles.