Over the last few weeks, Rice University’s baseball team has faced a fairly serious safety risk in the middle of their evening games – the blinding glare from the sun’s reflection off the Hilton Houston Plaza/Medical Center hotel.
During this transition from winter to spring, the sun has aligned itself to reflect perfectly from the building, to the batter’s eye during a pitch. This not only can blind the batter, but also the catcher and the umpire. As you can see in the picture I took below in August 2008, the building is dead center facing the setting sun (the stadium faces southwest).
Over the course of this season specifically, a "glare delay" has been used at least twice, both for about 30 minutes. Umpires, looking out for the safety of the batter, catcher, and himself, as well as trying not to allow one team an advantage over another, has had to call time and wait it out. My question becomes is there something that Rice can do about this?
Part of the problem is that this issue is only temporary and restricted to a portion of early March, so it would be overkill for Rice to ask for any major costs to avoid about 3 hours of delays over a two or three week period. It would be ridiculous to build a batter’s eye tall enough to block out the building. It would have to be a well over one hundred feet tall and capable of withstanding hurricane force winds. That’s not feasible without building an actual building to block it out, but there’s no space for that either.
Moving mid-week games to the day isn’t a really great idea at an academic institution like Rice who’s players aren’t going to be missing class when they don’t have to. It’s an option, but not a particularly promising one when trying to get other academic institutions to travel to your park in the mid-week. So what we’re looking for is something moderately cheap, perhaps only temporary.
My solution is commercial advertising. By dropping a windscreen-style billboard down the side of the Hilton, the advertisement will diffuse sun rays, greatly reducing the glare. This can also be a profitable enterprise for the Hilton, selling the advertising space to either Rice or another advertiser only during the three week period that sun is a problem at Reckling.
The screen style billboards are not that unattractive, and they do allow those hotel guest staying in the Hilton to have a fairly clear view out of their windows, just slightly tinted. And while air conditioning costs aren’t a huge issue this March, the tinting may also help the Hilton in the warmer March months by blocking out some of the sun’s heat, therefore lowering operating expenses.
It would be interesting to see what Hilton’s view of the advertising may be. They might consider themselves above advertising on the side of the building, but at the same time, there are some potential benefits to them monetarily. Plus , if Rice manages to secure the 3-week advertising spot, it’s publicity to the university not only at their baseball games, but to the area west of the Medical Center.