OPRF Boosters' forum calls for input on stadium lights

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By DREW CARTER

Two parent groups will sponsor a "neutral forum" on Feb. 28 on a proposal to add stadium lights at Oak Park and River Forest High School. The forum is aimed at gathering feedback, addressing questions and concerns.

Although co-sponsored by the Huskie Booster Club, which is "very much in favor" of adding lights according to Stadium Lights Committee co-chair Ron Murphy, the forum will be presided over by Rotary Club President Carolyn Saxton.

The OPRF Parent-Teacher Organization is co-sponsoring the forum, but has not taken a stance on the issue, said Ted Flint, PTO co-chair of the lights committee. He expects the PTO will back the recommendation made by the committee, which he said is made up primarily of Booster representatives.

The school board directed the Booster Club to "advance the issue of lights" and hold a forum to assess the issues of neighbors, Murphy said.

The meeting will consist of "timed presentations solicited from each organization," according to a letter calling for presentations. Sports organizations, parent groups, neighborhood and community organizations, historical societies, professional organizations and local government bodies have been invited to present. The Booster Club will also present its argument in favor of lights and information on how new lighting techniques might limit the concerns of high school neighbors.

Murphy said he hoped some government bodies would attend the meeting to help address tangential issues such as traffic on Linden Avenue and noise, but the village did not have plans of being involved.

"It would be [the Village of Oak Park's] wish that the school and neighbors work out whatever issues there may be," said David Powers, village spokesman, in a voice mail message. "If the school district asks the village to participate, we'd probably be willing to participate in terms of information or knowledge, but at this point it's an issue between the school district and the neighbors, and it's appropriate for them to be able to work it out."

The Booster Club plans on showing how effects of the lights and concomitant evening activities might be mitigated. Oak Park lighting designer Peter Hugh, who would handle design of the lights if the project moves ahead, will discuss how "light trespass," or the spillover of light into neighbors' homes, "can be kept to a bare minimum," Murphy said.

If the field were used for activities other than "big games," the intensity of the lights would be cut in half, Murphy said. Lights would be turned off by 8 p.m. on most nights.

Murphy said the Booster Club would also rework the stadium's sound system. He called the current system a "shotgun" approach: sound is sent in one direction from horns above the press box so fans on both sides can hear. Light poles would allow smaller, directional horns to be placed closer to the stands, so less noise spills over into the neighborhood, he said.

The Booster Club would pay for all costs of the lights and sound improvements.

The forum will last from 7 to 10 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 28 at OPRF's Little Theatre. A follow-up forum will be held May 7.

CONTACT: dcarter@wjinc.com

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