Let there be light soon will be more than just a cliche for the New Mexico baseball team.
For the first time, Lobo Field will be able to play host to night games as eight new light poles will be installed in the coming days, with the hope that they will be ready by Nov. 1.
"The gentlemen that are helping with all this stuff, they played here without (lights)," said UNM coach Ray Birmingham, referring to ex-Lobos Dee Dennis and Jeff Grady. "They were great players, as good as other players across that had (lights). The beautiful thing is that they're helping to change that. It means everything."
Dennis, who played for UNM in 1999 and 2000, is the managing partner at DKD Electric. He donated nearly half the $600,000 that was raised in a "grassroots effort," Birmingham said, from donors throughout all of New Mexico.
"This project has been going on since 1997," Dennis said. "The original document that I have in my UNM baseball lighting file is dated July 1997. So it's taken a long time to get here. Really, to get the actual work done it takes a commitment from our guys. It's taken a commitment from the partners I have at DKD Electric to really commit the resources to get this done and get it done in a time the baseball team can start using it before the season starts."
Dennis said night games are a whole different, and superior, experience for a college athlete.
"Really the most fun that I ever hard really was truly under the lights," he said. "You get the most fans, the most energy. The game feels different."
Grady, a Lobo letterman from 2000 to 2005, is the managing member at RayLee homes. He is working with UNM to get approval for a new clubhouse for the Lobos, who currently use an extra locker room in The Pit. If the plans are approved, that construction will begin in the summer of 2014.
"I think that it's going to open the community's eyes that maybe a win-loss column can't," Grady said. "I think that this baseball team is a big-time baseball team, that's come a long way in a very short amount of time. The record speaks for itself, the competition speaks for itself. It's time to act like one, it's time to look like one."
Birmingham said the upside for his program is obvious, though it goes beyond just what is good for UNM.
"It's going to help attendance, it's going to help recruiting, it's going to help practices and it's going to help state of pride for this program," Birmingham said. "This is even more than that. This just isn't Lobo baseball, this is New Mexico's baseball team, the way I feel about it, the way those two men feel about it.
"There will not only be Lobo games down here, the (high school) state championships will be held here. The summer championships that we hope to bring in some great big summer tournaments to this city, let our kids experience the world."
Lobo fall practice is currently underway, so some games in the Cherry and Silver Series, which begins Nov. 3, can now be held at night.
"This institution is the flagship institution in the state of New Mexico," Birmingham said. "It needs to continue to build something that's prideful (for) our kids. The best commodity we have in our state is not oil and gas, it's not coal, it's not farming, it's our kids. We need to make things really nice so our kids want to stay here and take pride, state pride. This will make that happen."
The Lobos will open the 2014 season on the road at San Diego on Feb. 14, before coming home Feb. 21 to play host to the Lobo Invite against Northern Illinois and Missouri State.