The group opposing lights at Memorial Field aimed to prove that Glenbard High School District 87 officials desire lights at West but do not need them.
Jim Ozog, representing Our Field Our Town, cross examined District 87 officials and previous expert witnesses in front of plan commissioners during Thursday evening’s court-like meeting.
District 87 wants to install lights at Memorial Field, but in order to do so district officials need approval from the village of Glen Ellyn’s board of trustees, following the recommendation of the plan commission.
Plan commissioners listened to Ozog’s line of questioning Thursday, as he set out to prove that the district failed to demonstrate a need for lights, as required by the village code for the approval of a variance request.
“The bottom line is no rights of land use will be denied here, and what is being requested is a desire and a desire only. As the law points out, if it’s pure desire than a variance should not be granted,” said Ozog.
Ozog tried to make the case that the lack of lights is neither a hardship for the high school nor the students.
Through his cross examination, Ozog at times frustrated officials. He pointed out that despite the school’s cry of inequity because of less practice time due to lack of field space, West’s football team still ranked No. 1 in the state of Illinois.
And, despite the lack of field space, Glenbard West has the highest percentage of students participating in sports compared to the other Glenbard High Schools.
But things got tense when Ozog questioned Glenbard West Principal Jane Thorsen, particularly when he repeatedly asked her if lights would improve the grade point average of West’s student population.
Ozog piggy-backed on Thorsen’s previous testimony that students who engage in extra curricular activities and sports perform better in high school and ultimately higher education.
But Ozog wanted proof.
“Are you aware of any studies that have shown that students at schools with lights achieve higher grade points?” asked Ozog.
Thorsen contended that there is research to back her previous testimony but none that points to a direct correlation between lights and grade point average.
“So your position is that if we install lights at Glenbard West students will achieve higher grade points?” asked Ozog.
“The research would back that,” said Thorsen.
But then Ozog contended that the study Thorsen previously presented only cited three predictors to success in college, none of which included lights.
The questioning also tried to dismantle a previous statement by the district that every student athlete has the right to compete on campus. But Ozog pointed out, as stated by the student handbook, it’s a privilege not a right, and furthermore it would be impossible for every student athlete, like those in swimming, golf or cross country, to compete at home.
Because of the limited space some sports have to compete at park district fields, which Ozog pointed out are only minutes away from the high school by bus. The district claims that it’s a major cost to bus students to practices and cuts down on practice time, and Ozog contended that some park district practice fields are no more than two miles away, or just under five minutes by bus.
Then, in a move that received gasps from the crowd, Ozog brought up Justice Odom, now quarterback for Glenbard West. Odom used to play at Wheaton Warrenville South (a rival football team that plays under lights). Ozog asked Thorsen if the absence of lights made it less attractive to student athletes. Thorsen said that the school does not recruit but all students athletes want to play under lights. Ozog pointed out that Odom left WWS for GBW. Thorsen then reminded Ozog that Odom transferred because of family reasons and not football.
“That was a family situation. They needed to move for personal situations...It certainly wasn’t for the quality of the program that would be against the law,” said Thorsen.
Eventually, Ozog moved onto the lighting engineer, Ryan Marsh with Musco Lighting. This line of questioning revolved around the question of what happens if a bulb were to break and the danger that could pose for athletes, spectators and homes in the surrounding area.
“Will you offer this community and the neighbors a 25-year guarantee that our houses will not catch on fire?” asked Ozog.
“I can’t do that. That’s not part of the warranty,” said Marsh.
The opposition group ran out of time and will continue to question district 87’s witnesses at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Sept. 22.
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