Hennepin flips the switch on Little League lights

Community comes through to cut costs by more than half to provide lights

Quentin Buffington speaks Wednesday, May 22, 2024, about the project to install lights at the Hennepin Little League field.

Lighting the Hennepin Little League field has been a project decades in the making.

More than 40 years ago, Quentin Buffington said he remembers being 12 years old, playing on the field and hearing about the need for lights.

“It was always too expensive,” Buffington said.

On Wednesday night, Hennepin Little League played its first night game under the lights thanks to contributions from a number of Putnam County-area businesses. A ceremony was conducted before the game with Buffington as emcee, including Marquis Energy, which provided $10,000 for the project, and Hennepin Village President Kevin Coleman.

Buffington worked closely with John Rice of John Rice Electric to bring the project to fruition. The initial price tag was more than $200,000, but through donations of time, materials and equipment, the project was completed for $79,000.

“We weren’t going to be stopped,” Buffingon said of the determination to get the project done. “We kept telling everyone ‘it’s for the kids,’ and they’d come through.”

Along with John Rice Electric, Marquis Energy, Par Electrical Contractors, Ameren, Judd Construction, Revolve Lighting, Illinois Valley Surveying, the Putnam County School District 535 Board, Hennepin Boat Store, Gatza Electric, S&S Underground, Putnam County Painting and Illinois Valley Excavating contributed to the project. Buffington said almost all of the labor was donated, with many skilled workers offering to help at just the cost of the materials. The light poles had to meet specific requirements, and Ameren was able to provide the majority of them.

“Without all of these people, this project would not have been possible,” Buffington said.

Coleman commended the many businesses and the community for coming together on the project, then invited Buffington to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Buffington said the lights will allow Hennepin to schedule its games later in the day and not worry about games being called due to darkness, especially in the spring season when school still is in session and dusk is earlier. It also allows for the possibility of doubleheaders.

Coleman said he lives near the field and couldn’t tell the lights were on when they were being tested because of the precision of their placement and modern lighting.

To celebrate the new lights, free pork chop sandwiches were provided at the concession stand from Hennepin Food Mart.

(From left) Allison Schwingle, of Marquis Energy; Quentin Buffington; Kevin Coleman, Hennepin village president; and Drew Schlumpf, of Marquis Energy pose for a check presentation Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Marquis Energy donated $10,000 for the Hennepin Little League field's lights.
Hennepin Little League plays its first game Wednesday, May 22, 2024, under the new lights.
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