New Ulm

Electrical upgrades illuminate historic Turner Hall gymnasium

Improving energy efficiency and safety

Saving with CERTs Support

 

New Ulm Turnverein in Southwest Minnesota is a historic landmark that runs the oldest, continually running gymnastics program of its kind in the state. Turner Hall Gymnastics has provided affordable instruction to youth across the region for over a century and also rents out its space for special events.

While staff and the community pride themselves on the long history of Turner Hall, the gym’s aging electrical infrastructure had become another matter. By investing in necessary lighting and electrical upgrades earlier this year with support from a CERTs Seed Grant, Turner Hall gymnasium and its programming now have a bright future ahead.

 

This project reduced energy usage, brightened our gymnasium, and replaced what was a potentially hazardous electrical box. These changes will save us on utility expenses, and proved to significantly improve visibility in the gym… Our gymnastics families can better capture memories.`

Andrea Boettger, New Ulm Turner Hall Executive Director

Making necessary upgrades

The Turner Hall gymnasium had inefficient lighting and a decades-old breaker box that staff hoped to replace. In recent years, many of the gym’s overhead and recessed light fixtures had ceased functioning. The electrical box was a potential fire hazard, with hotspots and duct-taped switches.

 

Over the past decade, the outdated technology had begun to “become a burden,” according to Turner Hall Executive Director Andrea Boettger. The technology was in need of replacement, but the nonprofit gymnastics program had limited funding available for upgrades.

With support from a CERTs Seed Grant award, the organization was able to prioritize overdue upgrades, replacing its lighting fixtures with LEDs and installing a new breaker box and remote-controlled system.

Volunteers and Turner Hall staff helped prepare the gym for the upgrades, and several others assisted Boettger to review and report on the project. The organization coordinated with a contractor from New Ulm’s Paul’s Electric, Inc., to supply and install the new fixtures.

Positive impacts

The upgrades had a positive and visible impact from day one.

“On our first day of the new lights, I was astonished at the difference in brightness in our gym. Dark corners were now visible, and the brightness was clear… We are also using [fewer] lights overall, which provides even greater energy savings,” Boettger said.

Notable benefits from the upgrades included cost savings, improved safety and aesthetics, and easier-to-use and more customizable controls.

 

Gym-Lights-BeforAfter_0.jpg

 

“This project reduced energy usage, brightened our gymnasium, and replaced what was a potentially hazardous electrical box. These changes will save us on utility expenses, and proved to significantly improve visibility in the gym… Our gymnastics families can better capture memories,” Boettger said.

In addition to these onsite benefits, reductions in energy use improves Turner Hall’s environmental impact.

“We care about our capacity to make little changes that have a positive impact on the environment and reduce our carbon footprint,” Boettger said.

We were so pleased with this project and how it turned out. We are excited for classes to resume again so families can see the incredible difference.

Andrea Boettger, New Ulm Turner Hall Executive Director

Promoting the value of energy efficiency upgrades

Given the project’s success, Boettger has spread the word locally, recognizing the importance of inspiring other area businesses to consider upgrades of their own. She saw how sharing the journey Turner Hall took to obtain, receive, and work through their upgrades could benefit other organizations.

“I believe there are many other companies that could benefit from [CERTs] energy improvement grants and would be more encouraged to apply if they knew the end result would greatly outweigh the costs of continued inaction,” Boettger said.

 

In addition to sharing Turner Hall’s success, Boettger explained how she would encourage businesses investing in energy projects of a similar scope to take them one step at a time. “It seems overwhelming at first. But taking things one step at a time breaks the process up into manageable pieces,” she said.

Boettger promoted the upgrades on Turner Hall’s social media and through its client newsletter, and she remains open to sharing Turner Hall’s experience and lessons learned with others. New Ulm Public Utilities featured the project in its newsletter to residents and businesses in the area. Local papers covered the project as well, including The Journal in New Ulm and Mankato Free Press. To date, Boettger estimated reaching over 1500 people by spreading the word about the award and project.

In light of closures related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boettger acknowledged that it has been a tough year and that the organization has had to switch gears numerous times, but Turner Hall Gymnastics has been weathering the storm.

“We were so pleased with this project and how it turned out,” Boettger said. “We are excited for classes to resume again so families can see the incredible difference.”

Project Snapshot

 
  • Technology: Lighting upgrades with controls
  • SW CERT Seed Grant: $5,000
  • Total Project Cost: $11,602.22
  • Other Funds: an estate, utility rebates
  • Project Team: Josh Sabatino (Paul’s Electric); Andrea Boettger (New Ulm Turnverein, Inc.); Turner Hall staff, volunteers, and board members reviewed layout, prepared gym for installation, and worked on grant paperwork. 
  • People Involved and Reached: 1,505
  • Annual Energy Savings: 26,337 kWh
 
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