Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Rolling blackouts could interrupt West Regional




By GARY GENTILE
AP Business Writer

        LOS ANGELES — The rolling blackouts that hit Southern California for the first time this week could interrupt one of the NCAA championship games scheduled for Thursday, though officials say it is unlikely.

        “We're in a very stable situation,” said Mike O'Donnell, assistant general manager for the 650,000-square-foot Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim.

        Georgetown plays Maryland at 8 p.m. EST followed by Cincinnati vs. Stanford. The regional final will be played Saturday.

        Anaheim has its own municipal utility, which has separate long-term contracts with power generators. Unlike other parts of the state, it does not draw any power from the two cash-strapped utilities.

        But Anaheim Public Power is still on the statewide power grid and must shut power to its customers if called on by the California Independent System Operator, which controls the grid.

        Most of Southern California has been exempt from the blackouts that struck the north in January. But for the first time this week, parts of communities such as Beverly Hills, Long Beach and San Diego lost power for an hour at a time when electricity supplies ran critically low.

        In Anaheim, about 3,500 customers lost power Tuesday — the first time that community has had blackouts.

        But the utility said emergency service providers, such as fire stations, and large venues that hold more than 5,000 people, such as the Pond and Disneyland, are low on the list of facilities that would be asked to turn off the lights in an emergency.

        “It's unlikely, but it could happen if a major power source were to go down or if the entire state were subject to a severe shortage,” said Melanie Nieman, a spokeswoman for Anaheim Public Utilities.

        Kevin Starkey, director of operations at the Arrowhead Pond, said a diesel-powered emergency generator would go on less than 20 seconds after a total blackout. The generator is designed to power emergency lights to aid an evacuation and would not power the entire arena.

        Starkey said he meets with the local utility each week to discuss the arena's power needs and uses power on off-peak hours when possible. He said much of the cooling of the arena, which holds 18,400 people, can be done the night before.

        Starkey said the arena consumes about 2,300 kilowatts per hour during an event.

        O'Donnell said NCAA officials asked about the power situation a few weeks ago and were satisfied with the arena's preparations.

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