An OPRF student perspective on lighting the stadium


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J.J. Stankevitz, One View

After reading a letter from Stephen Tyma titled, "Empirically, Trainor's view on OPRF lights is unsupportable" in last week's Wednesday Journal, I could not help but go about and show that nearly all of his points made to counter columnist Ken Trainor's points were in fact, unsupportable. I wrote my last Trapeze column on the debate over stadium lights. I interviewed Jim Nudera and Chris Ledbetter, head coaches of the varsity football and baseball teams, respectively.

Tyma's first point states that there is no evidence that putting in stadium lights will lead to an increase in attendance at games.

"I live in Weschester, right by LaGrange [Lyons Township H.S.], and I've seen what's happened in their community with lights," said Ledbetter. "Friday night football is a community event. It's the same way at Hinsdale Central, Downers North, and York [all of which have lights]. I just feel like we're missing out as a community. It's special to see young kids running around the stadium. Also for students here, there are not a lot of things for them to do on Friday night, and [going to a football game] is something very positive for them."

Tyma's second point is his only valid argument against stadium lights [property values declining].

Now in his third point, Tyma groups all high school students into one group. I surely have never urinated on somebody else's private property, and I would hope that nobody else attending the games would. Not all high school students are outlaws and punks. Some of us do respect other people's property.

In his fourth point, Tyma complains about the brightness of the lights. Yes, the lights are bright. But Tyma portrays the lights as shining directly into the people's houses. That is nowhere near the truth. The lights will shine down onto the field. The point of having them is to illuminate the field, not the surrounding area.

Tyma's fifth point seems to be way off base. Yes, security will have to increase, but maybe if school security were not so bent up about telling people to remove their hats and what fans can and cannot chant, they might be able to concentrate their efforts on the mall area or outside of the school to help protect the neighbors. I'm sure that they would, as it's more important to protect other people's property than to tell fans to stop booing so loud.

In his sixth point, part A, Tyma says the lights will actually have a negative effect on the field, as having them will double the practices on the field and thus halve the life of the turf. It sounds reasonable, but I would like to see some evidence behind it.

In part B of his sixth point, Tyma dismisses the fact that students will go to a football game because they already have things to do. Well, if a football game starts at 7:30 and ends by 10, that still leaves a good portion of the night open. People will come to the games, and it is a positive activity for students on a Friday night.

Tyma's next point is the one that annoyed me the most. He obviously does not attend OPRF, or else he would understand. School spirit, or "Huskie pride" as it would be, is definitely there. The first "Huskiepalooza" was a widely-attended event enjoyed by all. There is another one on Friday, which will likely be even more crowded. So why doesn't this school spirit translate over to football? It's because games are at 1:00 in the afternoon. It breaks your day up if you want to go to a game at 1. A game at 7:30 at night would lead nicely into later activities that night.

The benefit of school spirit? Better attendance at games.

"When I was in eighth grade, I went to a football game that was sold out between OPRF and New Trier," said Ledbetter. It was like being at a college football game. It's special when the stadium is filled near capacity." That atmosphere translates to the field, as it does in all other sports. The "12th man" can greatly contribute to the intensity of the home team.

In point D, Tyma has it all wrong. "Limped into the playoffs?" How can a team limp into the playoffs when they haven't made it for six years? This year was a building block for the football team. The coaching staff did an excellent job throughout the season. The loss to Stevenson? When you play the No. 3 team in the state, on the road, with the crowd roaring, it's not easy to win.

By the way, that game was played at night. Stevenson's stands were filled at or over capacity. And the fans were loud. I was there; Tyma was not. Stevenson showed what school spirit, coupled with a Friday night football game, can be.

In Tyma's seventh point, he writes that "Children ... will be profoundly affected by the light, the noise, and the crowd." Those crowds will be around for a maximum of five nights a year, four if the football team does not play a home playoff game. Is having the lights on and a noisy crowd really going to "profoundly affect" children for 1/73rd of the year? I think not.

In Tyma's last two points, he gets it all wrong, again. OK, so there will be 15?#34;maybe more?#34;nights where the lights will be on. Likely, only five of those nights will draw a loud, noisy crowd, not to slight the youth football programs in Oak Park. For practices, the lights will be off by eight. The noise level will not be loud. And once again, the lights are not shining directly into the neighbors' windows. They are aimed down at the field.

Let me just finish with a some quotes from Jim Nudera. He's the head varsity football coach. If he isn't a reliable source for this information, then I don't know who is.

"OPRF is in a situation where we lose a day, which the public does not understand," said Nudera. "If York is playing on a Friday night against Downers Grove North, and we're coming off a Saturday afternoon game against Hinsdale Central, we'll go home. We will not do anything on Sunday, which is a no-no in football. In pro football, right after the game, the players go back, they lift, run, get treated for injuries, watch film, and go home. Tuesday is their day off. When our players play on Saturday, they don't get the treatment on Sunday. That's a bad thing. The York players will play on Friday night, be looked at right away, then they'll have Saturday free, which is ideal. We don't have that. For the last number of years, Monday has been JV games. Our JV players will get ready, they'll play their game, and we cannot have a full practice. Everybody in the conference is in the same boat. But we use Monday to treat any injuries where other schools would do it on a Saturday. So indirectly we are still down a day."

"Having lights provides us that extra day of preparation. It's like gold to us."

"People who haven't been to a game in years because Saturday doesn't work in their schedule are going to be here. The community is going to talk [about the game] on Saturday morning. What's wrong with that?"

Next time, maybe Tyma should get the facts straight.

J.J. Stankevitz is a member of the Trapeze Sports Staff. This letter does not in any way express the opinion of the Trapeze editorial board.

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