As the controversy surrounding a proposed $300,000 lighting system at Memorial Field entered its sixth night of public hearings, supporters and opponents voiced their opinions on the project.
In urging the commissioners to approve the variances for lights at the field, Ted Burns, a member of the school’s marching band, said the band often has to practice formations in the gymnasium because the sun has set, leaving the band in the dark. Burns said parents and band boosters have to tape off hash-marks on the court then remove the tape at the end of each practice. Marching on the court hinders the band’s readiness not only for school athletic competitions, but also band competitions, he said.
“We have a lack of field space here at Glenbard West. Adding lights would greatly help,” he said.
Likewise, Rebecca Majewski, a Glenbard West mother, said adding lights would benefit the school and students. She said the students who are bussed to six other off-campus fields leased by the schools do not have access to certain basic needs in case of illness or injury, such as restrooms or team trainers. Majewski said the lights are a benefit, which is why the District 87 board of education supported erecting the lights.
“I trust the school board would not have voted in favor of the light proposal unless they were convinced the lights were in the best interest of the students,” she said.
Building on carting students back and forth to practice fields, Karen Judge, a Glenbard West field hockey coach, said the addition of lights would cut down on the issue and allow students to get home sooner. Judge also said the addition of lights at Memorial Field would also add a safety component by illuminating Crescent Boulevard, which separates the field and the school.
But that illumination is the problem, said Kirk Burger, president of Our Field, Our Town, the group leading the charge of opposition. A lighting professional, Burger said the lighting plan is unacceptable due to excess light spilling onto Crescent and into the surrounding neighborhood. He challenged the plans presented to the village by Musco Lighting, the firm tapped by the school district to erect the lights. Burger said they do not adequately address glare, sky glow or “vertical spillage” into the neighborhoods. He also criticized the village zoning ordinance which treats athletic lighting structures the same as street lamps.
“They are not apples and apples. There’s a vast difference between those lights. No football field should be lit by street lights and no street should be lit by stadium lights,” Burger said.
Jeff Gahris, a member of the Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting, said more information on the impact of the lighting is needed. He also said if the village ultimately approves the plan they should demand a follow up consultation to see if the lights are working as Musco promised when they presented the plans.
Donald Pydo charged commissioners with looking for possible unintended consequences that installing the lights would generate. He said there are bound to be unforeseen issues from “changing the character of the village.”
Thursday night’s public hearing will not be the last one on the matter. Plan Commission Chairwoman Julie Fullerton announced at least one more public hearing will take place, which is set for Oct. 27. Fullerton said there are at least six people signed up to address the board who have not had a chance to address the crowds. Fullerton said she also wanted to give people a chance to speak that were unable to make Thursday night’s meeting.