As a resident of the immediate neighborhood surrounding Oak Park and River Forest High School, I have reservations about the installation of permanent lights at the stadium.
If the night games go as seamlessly as proponents say, I, like all of the neighbors who are big supporters of the high school, would be happy to put up with yet another inconvenience that comes with the choice we all made when we moved into the neighborhood. But it is not clear that a small number of home-owners might not have to bear a disastrous burden if lights are installed.
Neighbors, rightfully I think, worry about unruly crowds swarming over their lawns after night games. The high school has implicitly admitted that night games are more problematic than day games by proscribing night basketball games with Proviso West High School. A fight with weapons after a night game led to this policy and shows that there is something about night games that is a legitimate concern for the neighbors.
The administration says that Friday night games will increase school spirit by providing for a school-sponsored event. That is a beguiling goal, but, in my mind, it is far from certain. Even though the high school has had very good basketball teams in the past few years, for instance, student attendance has hardly been overwhelming. Will football games be different?
There is an easy way to gauge the effect of lights: put in temporary lights for a year of activities and study the consequences. A recent communication in the paper said that a test game in the past had inadequate lighting (stanchions too short or something), but, if Big Ten teams can get lighting that is adequate for television, OPRF should be able to do the same. The Boosters, who have said money is no object for this undertaking, should be happy to foot the bill.
When the high school board debated and approved the lights last year, there was a lot of emotional claptrap from both sides. Head Football Coach Nudera contributed to the obfuscation. He said his team is at a disadvantage because it has one less day to prepare when his team plays a Friday night away game after a Saturday day game the previous week. Does it not work both ways? Does not OPRF enjoy extra days of preparation when it plays a Saturday game after a Friday game the week before?
Why not take the guess work on the consequences of putting in lights out of the equation and evaluate the impact on the neighborhood as well as the benefits to the high school?
Temporary lights will accomplish this.
When the OPRF board debated the lights issue, the president of the Booster Club asked a rhetorical question. Noting that another school in the conference had put in lights and had not felt the need to remove them, he asked, “If lights are so bad, why has this school not taken them down?” The answer is easy: It is much easier to prevent $300,000 mistake than it is to reverse one.
Make an informed decision on lighting the stadium. Get data. In the meantime put in temporary lights.
Submitted at WednesdayJournalOnline.com