Since the favorite sport of Oak Park is controversy, I am struck by how the issue of stadium lights appears to lack any consensus of fact. As I read the letters from those in favor of lights, it was clear that they were both emotional and nostalgic. But they made no mention of reality or fact and posed their reasoning as “just common sense.”
I am not a neighbor of the high school or a member of APRIL (Alliance to Preserve Residential Integrity and Livability). I entered the fray when I saw the Musco Lighting Co. illustration from a satellite photo that made it appear as if the lights magically lit only the field of play. Think about it, when you watch Monday Night Football from the blimp, the field looks light and the parking lot looks dark. But we know the parking lot is not dark; it’s just contrast and scale.
A good friend, who is for the lights, actually said to me, “It’s just a couple of nights a year.” Oh really? The application clearly stated that it could be more than 80 nights a year. Even the sample schedule the school presented to the village showed lights on more than 61 nights a year. Wednesday Journal has to assume some responsibility for this misconception. The fact that there have not been lights at the stadium since it was built 85 years ago negates any argument that they shouldn’t have bought their house.
Do people really believe that those neighbors spent untold amounts of their own time and money to defend against this just because they wanted to be prickly and they don’t like teenagers? It is also comical that they were portrayed as fearful of teens or racist when in fact, they chose to turn down offers from Oak Lawn High School neighbors to testify that they are petitioning to stop their night games because of fights and police intervention. This is not racial fear baiting. The problem in Oak Lawn is just good kids doing bad things because they are en masse on a Friday night with a little testosterone and other substances thrown in. Why did we have to end May Madness, despite the hard work and dedication of Rich Gloor and Dan Haley? I polled my neighborhood teens about night games. Their consensus was, “Duuh – tons of kids will be drunk when they get there, or they will sneak clear booze in to mix with their pop.” Their words, not mine.
The truly disappointing fact is that I sense a repeat of the parking garage charade. I suspect that the school will soon wonder why they spent so much time and money on something that will in the end become another PR crisis for themselves and the community.
Eric Brightfield is a 20-year Oak Park resident and founder of an architectural computer imaging firm in Chicago.