OPRF should rent lights for one season, then assess

Opinion

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"Not In My Back Yard" is a characterization of the attitudes of people who are facing some type of development or change in a location that will affect their lives. It implies a knee-jerk response, regardless of the merits of the issue. Proponents of putting in lights for night football games at the high school seem to assume that local opposition is nothing but another example of NIMBYism. This attitude ignores legitimate concerns about the effects of lights on the neighborhood and makes the neighbors seem as though the high school's interests (and the whole community's) are of no concern to them.

This is simply wrong. The neighbors are great supporters of the high school, but many have already witnessed untoward behaviors after some evening events at the high school: loud, raucous groups trampling lawns and bushes, public urination, fights, drinking and drug use.

Still, many neighbors, like the lights advocates, see great advantages for the high school if night games became a reality and are genuinely torn about the issue. They recognize that the global community interest might well be best served if lights are installed, but are fearful that consequences to the immediate neighbors are too great a burden for the community to ask for. Among the many concerns are the effect of lights on property values.

A few years ago, portable lights were used for a night soccer game. ... I guess as some kind of demonstration project. One night game in a sport that does not enjoy great attendance, however, does not provide sufficient data to objectively determine the effects, both good and bad.

I suggest that portable lights be rented for one entire season of night football games with a plan for objective evaluation of the effects on the neighborhood and the benefits that accrue to the high school. Part of the study should include an analysis of how property values in the immediate neighborhood might be affected. I think the Boosters should be happy to fund such an experiment.

I assure you that, if the neighbors were to see that lights for the high school stadium proved to be of great benefit for the high school and only a minor inconvenience for the neighborhood, neighborhood support for the project would be increased. If it turns out to be the disaster that some fear, then I am sure that even the Boosters would not want to have the stadium lit at an unacceptable cost to the neighborhood.

We need not leap into lighting the stadium without getting more information that will help the high school board and village trustees make a decision that is more informed by data and less informed by emotion.

Jim Whalen
Oak Park

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