District 87 school board members got an earful from residents who are concerned about proposed enhancements to Memorial Field during a Monday night meeting at the District’s headquarters.
District 87 officials say adding lights, bleachers and completing other projects is important for student use of the Memorial Field facilities. Concerned residents say the proposed enhancements will increase traffic problems around the field, bring increased numbers of spectators and cause harm to the neighborhood and village.
Currently proposed enhancements to the field include adding field lighting, installing a sidewalk along the third base sideline of the baseball diamond, adding bleacher seating to the north side of the field and renovations to the tennis court.
The issue of adding lighting to Memorial Field is at the top of resident’s complaints about the proposed enhancements. In particular, residents who live in the area near Memorial Field are concerned about the light and noise disturbance to their daily lives. But the issue has also opened the door to more general complaints pertaining to Memorial Field as well.
Resident Kirk Burger handed out photos and documents to board members before carefully going through a list of safety concerns he had regarding Memorial Field and traffic on Crescent Boulevard. Burger said that adding lights to the Memorial Field would blind drivers as they pulled out of parking spots on Crescent Boulevard.
“If you put lights there, in what is a very dangerous street, you’re going to be blinding people,” Burger said about the prospect of adding stadium-style lighting to Memorial Field.
Traffic safety is another chief concern of residents, who claim that the additions will turn an already poor traffic situation on Crescent Boulevard into something even worse.
“I am deeply concerned about the District’s push to install lights at Memorial Field,” said resident Tom Koprowski in an impassioned speech to the board. In terms of making Crescent Boulevard safer, Koprowski said, “It appears the District has achieved the opposite.”
Resident’s traffic concerns relate to a number of what they call problems with Memorial Field, but a recurring concern is the increased traffic that Memorial Field will generate through rental of the field to Park District and third party renters. Residents worry that by adding additional spectator seating and installing lights—thus allowing games and practices to run later into the night—will increase traffic problems in an area that saw no shortage of accidents last year, including a student hit by a car at the intersection of Crescent Boulevard and Park Boulevard.
School board members listened intently throughout the public participation segment of the meeting, during which nearly a dozen residents spoke in opposition.
Chris McClain, assistant superintendent for business services, led the presentation to board members and attempted to offer solutions to residents concerns. In addition to the presentation he made at a , he included information to quell residents fears of late night games and bright lights at late hours with spreadsheets containing proposed times when the field would be used and just how often the lights would be needed.
“I think we’ve got some difficult soul searching to do,” said Vice President F. Thomas Voltaggio. He added the board would need to make some difficult decisions in balancing the schools needs and residents concerns. “My sense is that the overall sense of the community is that this is something you would not like to see pursued.”
The school board is looking for approval to submit a variance application to the Village at its Feb. 22 meeting, but board members seemed unsure if they would end up voting.
“I don’t know if we will take a vote on the 22nd,” Board President Rose Malcolm said, adding that two board members were absent and more information might be needed for the board to come to a decision.
If the board does vote to give the go-ahead to seek a variance application, the matter would likely go to the Village’s Plan Commission sometime in March.