Musco Lighting

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Musco Lighting

100 1st Avenue West
P.O. Box 808
Oskaloosa, Iowa 52577
Telephone: (641) 673-0411
Fax: (641) 672-1996
Web site:

Private Company
Employees: 1,000
NAIC: 335129 Other Lighting Equipment Manufacturing

Musco Lighting is a private company based in Oskaloosa, Iowa, that has emerged as the world's leading provider of temporary and permanent lighting systems used at sporting events and television and film production sites. In addition, Musco offers security lighting for transportation facilities such as railroad switchyards. The company's long list of credits includes five Super Bowls, a pair of Olympic Games, the Daytona 500, major motion pictures such as The Titanic, and the lighting of the Statue of Liberty. Musco's self-contained, truck-mounted lighting system has changed the nature of televised sports, permitting the nighttime broadcast of events from venues that lack permanent lights or sufficient lights for television purposes, such as college football stadiums, race tracks, and golf courses. A smaller version of the portable system has found ready clients in numerous movie and television production companies. Musco lights have also been put to use in disasters, such as the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.

In addition to outdoor lighting, Musco works indoors, involved in such projects as the lighting of presidential national conventions and special effects lighting for indoor arenas. Manufacturing is done in Muscatine, Iowa, and Shanghai, China. Musco also maintains nine field offices spread across the United States and international offices located in Canada, China, South Korea, Australia, Greece, Cyprus, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Subsidiary G&L Industries produces specialized hand tools, the original focus of Musco's founders, used in the aerospace, transportation, and manufacturing industries. Products include retractable pens, knives, magnets, and punches.


The men behind the rise of Musco are CEO Joe Crook-ham and Myron Gordin, who supplied the engineering expertise. Born in Oskaloosa, Crookham graduated from the University of Iowa in 1962, then earned an M.B.A. from the school two years later, followed by a law degree from Drake University in 1968. In that same year he began practicing law and working with Gordin, who had launched a business in his own home in Oskaloosa, G&L Industries, to produce retractable hand tools for machinists. The business got off to a slow start, generating just $792 in the first year, but Crookham was soon able to line up customers from such companies as Snap-On and X-Acto and the business did well. In 1976 the two men decided to branch out in another direction. They came across a failed lighting company in Muscatine, Iowa, called Muscatine Lighting and Manufacturing. What appealed to Gordin about the company was its idea of clustering quartz lights in a group, suitable for lighting sporting events. Crookham studied the market and concluded there was a niche opportunity. The lighting industry was highly fragmented, with some 1,500 companies in the United States, the four largest of which together controlled less than one-fifth of the market. Crookham told Business at Iowa, a University of Iowa publication, in 2005, "It was an industry where product engineering combined with good marketing strategy could allow for success." Crookham and Gordin acquired Muscatine Lighting, renaming it Musco Lighting.

Gordin took the cluster idea of Muscatine Lighting, improved the light source, and added reflector technology to create Musco's first product, the Sportscluster, introduced in 1977. The partners were not looking to concentrate on sports lighting, and actually planned to develop a variety of lighting products, but the success of Sportscluster was such that the company never had time to think about a second product. What made Sports-cluster so popular was that alignment was guaranteed, installation was simplified, and the lighting units were more durable than older systems. In 1979 Musco further simplified installation and improved the quality of the light the cluster gave off by introducing factory aiming. Furthermore, the serviceable electrical components were relocated to an enclosure near the base to allow for easier maintenance.

It was also in 1979 that the idea of creating mobile lighting systems came about. Musco was contacted about lighting a half-mile dirt race track for the national sprint-car championships that NBC was interested in televising. "One night," Crookham recalled in a 1982 interview with The NCAA News, "we were sitting around the office getting a little punchy and someone came up with the idea of putting lights on trucks. It was all a big joke at the time." The humor soon wore off, however, and the partners began to think the idea had commercial merit. Grodin developed some plans to make the idea a reality, and later in the year Crookham made a trip to New York City and from his hotel room began pitching the mobile lighting idea to the television networks. He met with officials from ABC, CBS, and NBC, who all expressed serious interest in the concept.

The mobile lighting system became the focus of Musco, and Musco became the sole focus of Crookham, who until 1980 had continued to practice law. He took over as chief executive in 1980 while Gordin refined the truck-based system. Late in 1980 the lights were successfully tested at the University of Iowa's Kinnick Stadium, setting the stage for the national debut of Musco Mobile Lighting. Fortunately for the company, college football was undergoing some major changes in television coverage; games were to be shown on two networks plus Turner on cable. This meant that there would be a number of games moved to late kickoffs to increase viewership. However, about 80 percent of Division I-A college football stadiums lacked telecast-quality lighting and the schools had little interest in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to install lights, which were not only needed to illuminate the playing field but the parking lots and surrounding areas as well. As a result, Musco found itself in an advantageous position and soon landed agreements with three major football conferences: the Atlantic Coast, the Big Eight, and the Big Ten, each agreeing to pay Musco a one-time fee of $250,000. The television networks then picked up most of the $50,000 per game fee Musco charged.


A leader in developing sports-lighting technologyincluding solutions for permanent and temporary lighting, and sports facility managementMusco offers innovative systems, a comprehensive package of services and decades of experience.


A major game on the 1982 schedule was the University of Michigan visiting Notre Dame on September 18. Because of the Musco mobile lights, the game was able to be moved to primetime, the first game played at night at Notre Dame as well as the successful national debut for Musco. The company would illuminate another 19 games that season and 18 in 1983. Business fell off in 1984 following a Supreme Court ruling against the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its control of television rights. As a result, the televising of games was opened up further, and to avoid competition many games kicked off as early as 11:30 a.m. and the late games began as early as 1:30 p.m. This meant that many of the late afternoon games, which would have required temporary lights, were eliminated. By this time, though, Musco was finding work beyond college football games. In 1983 the company lighted its first Super Bowl, played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, and also provided lights for its first Hollywood film, All the Right Moves starring Tom Cruise. A year later Musco lighted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games at the Los Angeles Coliseum. Other notable assignments included the rededication of the Statue of Liberty in 1986 and the 1987 televised Garth Brooks' concert in New York's Central Park. The company also expanded its permanent lighting business with the 1983 introduction of a new four-pole Little League Baseball lighting system that provided better results for less money.

For its innovative portable lighting system, Musco won an Emmy Award for the lighting of college football games, and Gordin, Crookham, and associates received Academy Awards in the Scientific and Engineering category in 1986. To keep ahead of much larger competitors, including General Electric, Philips, and Westinghouse, Gordin and his team of engineers remained in the forefront in bringing innovations to the lighting field. In 1987 Musco introduced Sportscluster-2, a significant improvement over the company's first product, cutting down on glare and spill (light falling on areas not intended to be illuminated) while improving efficiency and the cost of usage. An enhanced version followed two years later, resulting in 25 percent more light covering the field and about a 95 percent reduction in spill. The company also introduced its Total Light Control and Level-8 systems, which used visors to better control spill and glare in areas with severe restrictions, such as a residential neighborhood, while optimizing playing conditions.

Musco advances continued in the 1990s. In 1991 it unveiled the Light-Structure System, a five-part lighting system that included everything from the foundation to the poletop. The company also furthered its reputation as the leader in portable lighting systems. A smaller and quieter system, the Mini-Musco, became available in 1992, opening the way for work on television series and commercials, as well as small-budget films.

Musco did not neglect the sports business, however. In 1992 the company helped stock car racing circuit NASCAR and its rise to national prominence by devising a way to light race tracks. In 1991 the Charlotte Motor Speedway contacted Musco about installing permanent lighting for the 1.5 mile track in time for a May 1992 race that the sponsors wanted to run at night to increase the television audience. The only catch was that the manager of the speedway refused to allow lights on the inside of the track, which would create a "picket fence" and hinder the view of spectators camping in the infield as well as television cameras. Yet without inside lights the track could not be adequately illuminated. To solve the problem, Gordin decided to place lights behind the guardrail wall and then use blocks of mirrors placed at 15 foot intervals to light the areas the outside lights could not reach. He built models of the speedway to determine visual reference points and even enrolled at the track's driving school in order to drive the course at speeds as high as 150 miles per hour. His solution, named the Mirtran system, won acclaim from drivers, spectators, and television executives, and set the standard for racetrack illumination. For its effort Musco won the Paul Waterbury Award for outdoor lighting, presented by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.

In 1998 Musco installed lights at the 2.5 mile Daytona International Speedway, a massive job that included 2,000 light fixtures, 150 miles of wire, and 2,600 mirrors. Crookham told the Florida Times Union, "Nobody's ever tried to put this much light on anything this big."

Musco faced a challenge of a different sort in 1999 when it illuminated the final three holes of a made-for-television primetime golf challenge on ABC, Showdown at Sherwood. The results were excellent, prompting ABC to light the final four holes of the following year's The Battle at Bighorn. Essentially an insurance policy, the extra illuminated holes proved necessary as overcast skies forced the players to contended with a near-dark 14th hole. The contrast to the Musco-lighted 15th was stark and vivid, signifying another prestigious accomplishment for the company. Musco would now find work in providing permanent lights to golf courses.


Joe Crookham and Myron Gordin found Musco by acquiring Muscatine Lighting and Manufacturing.
Musco lights first college football game.
Musco lights first Super Bowl.
Musco wins Academy Award for film work.
First NASCAR race is illuminated.
Internet-based remote control lighting system is introduced.
Musco lights Ground Zero rescue efforts.
Light-Structure Green system is introduced.

Because so much of its work was high-profile sporting events, Musco enjoyed the luxury of having the event owners market their business. After the first Charlotte race, Crookham was approached by the owner of a racetrack in Australia to light his facility. This led to the opening of an office in Australia. Soon after Charlotte, Crookham also received a call from a horse track in England, leading to work in that country. "You see, the phone rings," Crookham explained to Business Record in 1998, "there's no strategic plan. It just happens."


Musco began work indoors as well in the 1990s. The Charlotte Coliseum hired the company in 1994 to solve a problem with "scoreboard washout." Then, in 1996 Musco introduced its ShowLight system, designed for large arenas that wanted to add theatrical lighting effects to pre-game and halftime shows while also providing optimum lighting for players and spectators. In addition, Musco took advantage of the Internet in the 1990s. The company's Control-Link system, introduced in 1999, allowed facility managers to use the Internet to remotely monitor, control, and manage their lighting systems.

Innovations continued in the new century. Musco improved the electrical power control of sports lighting in 2000 with the introduction of the factory-assembled Lighting Contractor Cabinet, which not only improved reliability but saved money. In 2005 Musco offered even greater economic benefits with the Light-Structure Green system that reduced spill light by 50 percent while cutting energy costs in half. Musco also found a way to help smaller facilities save money. It teamed up with scoreboard manufacturer Daktronics to mount a Daktronics scoreboard on a Musco lighting pole, an option that would save customers the cost of an additional pole and foundation. Moreover, installation costs were reduced because the scoreboard was mounted by the lighting contractor. In the 2000s the company also continued to illuminate prestigious projects, including Super Bowls XXXV and XXXVIII, the 2004 Olympics in Athens, and such major motion pictures as Seabiscuit. The company was also involved in the rescue and cleanup operation at Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, providing lighting equipment to permit round-the-clock operations.

By 2006 Musco was an international operation employing more than 1,000 people, three-quarters of whom were based in Oskaloosa and Muscatine, Iowa. Business was so strong that the company anticipated the workforce in Oskaloosa alone would triple. To keep pace Musco launched a $15 million expansion program to remodel 6,400 square feet of office space and build a new 60,000-square-foot production facility that would be connected to a three-story former soup factory the company acquired. Musco provided its own funds and sought no tax concessions from the local government.

Ed Dinger


G&L Industries.


GE Lighting Systems, Inc.; Hubbell Lighting, Inc.; Philips Lighting.


Edgington, Denis, "Blazing Shadows," Business Record, October 5, 1998, p. 12.

"Lighting the Way for Success," Business@Iowa, Summer 2005.

"Musco Lights Racing Track with Mirrors," Omaha World-Herald, April 15, 1992, p. 38.

Sheldon, James A., "Stadiums Can Leave the Dark Ages," NSAA News, August 11, 1982, p. 1.

Thomas, Robert McG., Jr., "Your Game in Lights, New York Times, October 29, 1984.