The village is a step closer to watching high school football and other athletic contests at night now that Oak Park and River Forest High School has hired its vendor to install lights at the football stadium.

The District 200 Board of Education last Thursday approved Utility Dynamics Corporation, based in Oswego, to install the light standards. The company, among four bidders, submitted the lowest offer at $172,000. Installation of the lights, designed by Musco Lighting, is expected to begin around the second week of August and take two weeks. The first Friday night football game scheduled is Sept. 18, against Glenbard West High School at 7:30 p.m. The schedule for soccer and other sports played under lights is still being worked out, according to school officials.

The board voted 6-1 in favor of Utility Dynamics, with Sharon Patchak-Layman casting the lone dissenting vote, contending that with the economy so poor, this is the wrong time to be spending that amount of money. The Huskie Booster Club, though, has long offered to pay for the installation of lights, a point Patchak-Layman acknowledged while voicing her objection.

Still a point of contention between the school and neighbors is the number of nights the lights will be in use. That has been in dispute since the Dist. 200 board officially approved adding lights in 2006. Neighbors object to the proposed 60-plus nights during the fall and spring. The issue has been discussed between OPRF officials and the Stadium Neighborhood Advisory Committee, the group commissioned by the village after it approved lights on May 18. The board had approved 60 nights of light usage.

Stephen Allsteadt, a neighbor and member of the committee, spoke during public comments at last Thursday’s meeting, reminding the OPRF board that it, too, wanted nights restricted when lights were approved in ’06. Dietra Millard and Jacques Conway are the two remaining board members from that 4-3 decision in 2006-Conway voted in favor and Millard voted against.

Allsteadt cited board minutes from that March 9 meeting, noting the roughly dozen or so night games under consideration at the time has since been expanded.

“In March 2006, this was a much smaller proposal,” he said after the meeting. “It was a proposal for 14 night games or 10 night games, depending on which board member was talking. [Conway] thought that 14 was too many, and there should be a compromise. As four or five years go by, the school was allowed to have 60 by the village board.”

Allsteadt added that he was against lights from the beginning, though some neighbors were willing to live with a dozen or so Friday night games only throughout the year.

“I know a lot of people who said, ‘Oh, it’s only 16 games. What is the big deal?’ because they didn’t see the big picture.”

Board member Ralph Lee said the neighbors’ points were valid and urged the high school to take it upon itself to limit the number of night games.

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