In open letter to my friends and neighbors who support OPRF stadium lights:
I've attended virtually every public meeting where stadium lights have been discussed, and I think I understand why you would like to light the high school stadium. Friday night football would be fun for the community, our athletes would be thrilled to play under the lights, and it would be great to take advantage of our incredible sports facilities 14 hours a day, particularly since we are short on field space. You have told me of your fond memories of Friday night football when and where you were growing up.
It sounds reasonable. It even sounds like fun until you consider the impact lights would have on historic Oak Park and the people who make their homes in the residential community that surrounds the high school.
It is clear to many why the stadium is without lights. This is a densely populated residential area. Many of these homes, including ours, are closer to the field than parts of the stands. The school sits in a historic district. The stadium itself is a historically significant building.
The stadium field is so close to the neighboring homes that we clearly hear the coaches yelling, the whistles blowing, the balls being kicked or hit, every car door slamming. Football games can be particularly difficult?#34;so loud that we do not talk on the phone, watch TV or consider hosting company during games. And thanks to the new all-weather turf, OPRF now hosts various football games all day every Saturday and Sunday. (Besides OPRF, Fenwick and youth football leagues also begin games as early as 9 a.m.) Did you know that the P.A. system can be heard six blocks north of the field? You can imagine what it is like for the neighbors that directly border the school.
But for the most part, we can handle all of this disruption because it's not that hard to adapt to the schedule. We can adapt because the field is busy when we are busy. In the middle of the afternoon, this level of activity is appropriate and expected.
But in the evening, we have the same expectations and needs of all busy families. We expect to enjoy a quiet dinner together, we expect to relax, we expect to see friends, or read, or sleep, talk on the phone, watch TV ... you know, the usual things you do in your home. And we can enjoy all of these simple things because after nightfall, Linden Avenue turns into a dark and sleepy residential street. After being 100 percent busy in the daylight, the commotion stops when the sun sets.
Some of you who might be here a few times a week for practice or games may not fully appreciate what the neighbors experience?#34;which is every practice and every game?#34;although most of you do understand the level of intrusion being proposed. I know this because as you explain how neat Friday night football in Oak Park would be, you also add, "but of course if I lived where you live, I wouldn't like it at all." I guess it's OK if it's in someone else's backyard, or this case, front yard.
If you still support the lights, please consider the following: there are 70-plus families within 120 yards of the OPRF stadium?#34;far more populated and much closer than any other high school football stadium in our conference; on any given weekend 30-40 percent of all local varsity high school games are played in the afternoon; many other suburban schools do not have stadium lights, including Glenbard West, Evanston, and Lake Forest; and as yet, the OPRF school administration has not quantified the priority or ongoing costs associated with lighting the OPRF stadium.
I hope that some evening soon you will take a stroll down our dark and sleepy street. I also recommend that you find out a little about what the neighbors of the south field lights have had to deal with since lights were installed within yards of their homes three years ago.
Perhaps you will understand why "lights on" 88 nights a year, illuminating our neighborhood, shining into our windows and enabling non-stop usage of the fields just yards from bedrooms is too much to ask of your friends.