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Opposition Group Aims to Dismantle District’s Request for Lights at Memorial Field

Representatives from Our Field Our Town spent three hours cross examining district officials and previous witnesses at the second plan commission meeting regarding the request for lights at Memorial Field.

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.

Marilyn September 09, 2011 at 01:53 PM
Thank you so much for covering this important topic. This way far more people can read what's going on than can attend the meetings. Keep up the good work. Appreciate as much detail as you can provide, because hopefully we will be voting on this item as a community.
Jay Donovan September 09, 2011 at 02:26 PM
This is excellent coverage. I missed the questions on the principal, but heard she presented rather poorly. I was present for the guy from the lighting company. He seemed more like a salesman rather than expert.
Dick September 09, 2011 at 02:35 PM
Would all GBW athletic teams cease use of any/all park district fields with installation of lights?
dave September 09, 2011 at 02:43 PM
Interesting exchange. That athletes commitment to sports and achieving good grades seems to apply more to time managment skills. That they might be more intelligent in spite of sports may be true as well, as does commitment to anything outside school work also can improve test scores. The question remains will having lights actually improve the scores of students? If X sports time equals to Y grades, the will increasing X increase Y? I think Thorsen is on thin ice. I believe all studies indicate that athletes' testing scores are attributed to managing time rather than time spent on athletics. Increasing the latter will not change the former.
dave September 09, 2011 at 02:59 PM
Somehow the remainder of my post was excluded. those most affected by lights, noise, light spillage, traffic are the neighbors to Memeorail Park. Aside from cost, I think the issue lest discussed and more subjective is how lights will change the character of Glenbard West. Will this open lighting Duchon Field? This village always wrestles with historic home preservation, variances, tree preservation etc.. We all have seen the large sideways homes on small lots where two steps out the backdoor you're in the neighbor's yard. We have seen the small replaced by the large. thet it increases the value, taxes is true. But the need for vaiences is explicit, the need to remove certain aspects that are in place to retain a deisred character. Cost aside, I believe many don't want to change Glenbard West's character, charm, whatever. This can not be argued successfully to prevent lights like the desire for lights versus need for lights.
Dick September 09, 2011 at 03:00 PM
The Principal should take a look at New Trier's Campus at 385 Winnetka Ave in Winnetka and let us know if the lack of lights on the field at that location has impacted the school's academic achievements.
Dick September 09, 2011 at 03:40 PM
Also look at Walter Payton HS in Chicago - #2 ranked school in the entire state. No lights on the field.
Bill Angel September 09, 2011 at 05:10 PM
I'll bet any amount of money that Ozog spent time in the "locker" as a freshman in HS. Did you know Mr. Ozog is a product, commercial and insurance liability attorney in Chicago?. Ozogs' line of questioning was a perfect case of "ambush and bullying" of the principle and the engineer. Nothing more than a hired gun for a few who live around the lake. Ozog does not represent the majority of community by any stretch of the imagination. Do they have lights at night in the winter to skate on Lake Ellyn 7 days a week? It's not about lights is it Mr. Ozog? Shame on you.
dave September 09, 2011 at 06:44 PM
Mr. Ozog's methods may be in question but not necessarily the questions he presented. What is the rational for lighting Memorial Park? "Because of the limited space some sports have to compete at park district fields," they go to ackerman, all of five minutes away. thay have massive space, less soem after the new facilty -the problems there, we can avoid, and most fields at Ackerman are lighted.. If Memorial Park were lighted, given the ordinance to turn off lights, how many additional games could be played? One per night, for there is only one field. Football could include Fridays nights, perhaps Saturdays, so whats that, eight home games max? Soccer, covers spring and fall, but how many day games would be converted to night to take advantage of lights or are game schduals restricted now because of lack of lighting? Are we talking about practices, typically schdualed after school. So do we move those to evenings just because lights exist? Seems like finding the need to use versus the need to have. If all the district can offer is the desire to have lights, not a real need, but has tried to present it as need, then where are the facts that it is beyond an inconvience, that play time is lost. One may not like the questioning method but if the rational for lights seems nebulous, or unfounded that need has not been established, and it has gone this far, then that line of questioning was all that remained.
Art Stewel September 09, 2011 at 11:32 PM
Jim does not represent the community. He represents a community group that has galvanized and grows stronger every day -- with more and more members of the community that live further and further away from the lake. I've never met him, but he seems noble in his pursuit and if I understand correctly does this for free. Keep up the good fight, Jim. That fight is protecting our community from the ambush and bullying of District 87. Pay the imbecilic nature of attacks against you and your profession no mind.
Mary Johnson September 10, 2011 at 03:50 PM
I live near Glenbard South, which had lights installed several years ago, despite the community's opposition. They are used throughout the school year for football, soccer and track, as well as an occasional school function, and I'm sure the athletes and families appreciate them. As a community member, I have learned to tolerate them, as obnoxious as they are. As I recall, there were timing restrictions mentioned when the district was pushing their agenda, but my guess is that those restrictions have been long forgotten. Games end at 10pm but the lights remain on for an additional hour or so for clean-up. I'd advise those opposed to West getting lights that you look carefully at those restrictions and then drive by South occasionally to see if the reality matches the promises. D87 is now trying to sell us the artificial turf-as-a-necessity agenda. Considering the poor quality of school principals and administrators employed by D87, perhaps the Board should focus more on installing quality administrators and less on installing lights and turf. Bet that would make a difference in GPAs!
Jay Donovan September 10, 2011 at 04:31 PM
Mary, your insightful comment above based on your experience with field lights is incredibly helpful. Rather than speculation, here is a first person account of what GBW and the surrounding community can expect. Thank you. District 87 has a credibility problem.
Matt September 10, 2011 at 05:27 PM
I have a great idea... If lights are so bad for Glenbard West students, let' have the lights removed from all the Glenbard a high Schools. First the folks on the north side of Glen Ellyn protest a pre-school, now it's lights! Welcome to the 21st century north side of Glen Ellyn and accept change!
Jack September 10, 2011 at 10:47 PM
It appears that the numerous zoning variances (10) are designed to conceal, confuse, obscure the change of use of the property. When did the Village Board approve a change of use from a public park/open space to a special use for a school athletic/recreational facility (the use described in the zoning application)?
Mark D. September 10, 2011 at 11:09 PM
As a new resident of Glen Ellyn, individuals on both sides have passion on there given position. Why the court room approach? Does any seriously think this has anything to do with grade point averages being correlated with lights? Why even go down such a ridiculous path of questioning. Lights are inevitable and I feel part of change which people are clearly resistant to. This is 2012. Glen Ellyn can still be charming and quaint with lights on a high school football field-
Marilyn September 10, 2011 at 11:34 PM
c'mon, Matt, give us a break. We're not talking about acceptance of "21st century" technology and sensibilities. We're talking about a neighborhood, a public park, trees, and a residential zone with longstanding rights insofar as safety, sound, lighting, and even public access. This isn't a corn field. That's what those other "21st century" schools got to play with. This athletic zone is a change, a usurpation of a residential area that was not zoned that way. People did not move there with the expectation that their lovely neighborhood park would be turned into Wrigley Field. That's not "21st century" so much as it is bullying a community.
Marilyn September 10, 2011 at 11:43 PM
Well, oddly enough these lights are NOT for a football field. Remember, football is on Duchon Field. (Lights at Duchon may be next. Most people think Memorial Field is the "test case" to get lights at Duchon Field. Memorial Field was supposed to be the "easy" field to light.) These lights are for lacrosse, soccer, baseball--perhaps one team per night of additional play, no more. What will happen next is that the football team will plead hardship when "all the other teams but us have lights." What we know, is that they don't want lacrosse, soccer, and baseball playing on sacred Duchon Field. Lights are not inevitable. Zoning changes are not inevitable. People have to vote them in. Zoning is put in place for a reason. The community is not trying to be "quaint" so much as encompassing of many things--along with athletics. We love our teams. We love our sports. But we also love trees, parks, quiet nights. Mark, what drew you to Glen Ellyn? You say you are a new resident. Were you hoping for lights on Memorial Field? You DO understnad that the whole program over there includes not just lights, but removal of trees for the installation of stadium seating and a parking lot? If you were designing the perfect Glen Ellyn, what would you include? What would you remove?
Jay Donovan September 11, 2011 at 03:20 AM
Matt - with all due respect, why assert that those opposed to the lights don't accept change? Why do you presuppose that lights are good? I welcome your answers. I think it is terrific that you have voiced yourself here. That is important. Again, not to be disrespectful, but you offer nothing in support of the lights and sort of attack those opposed to them. But you have expressed yourself in this forum and that in itself takes courage. It shows you care about the community. You apparently have a different point of view than others in the community that oppose. It would be nice to hear you articulate the reasons why. I am open to change. Change my opinion. Rather than attacking those that are against, make the case why the lights are good. Please.
Jay Donovan September 11, 2011 at 03:44 AM
Honestly, Mark, why assert people opposed to the lights are opposed to change? Are you aware that Obama carried Glen Ellyn? I'd bet dollars to doughnuts the majority of people in favor of lights are anti-Obama! Yet, there is this pernicious attack against those that oppose lights as anti-change. Why? Which is it? I don't know what you mean by 'the court room approach.' District 87 has applied to the Village for a variance to local zoning law. That is a legal proceeding. Everything said goes on the record. The point of cross-examination is to get the facts. District 87 presented their side in their petition for seeking a substantial variance to Village Code. But what if District 87 is completely lying? Suppose that the only reason they want lights is because someone from Musco has given them a bag of cash for a kickback. What if it really isn't about the student athletes and that argument is some subterfuge to elicit emotional responses from community members? What if, hypothetically, the whole turf / lights project was a way to skim money? Shouldn't the record, backed by the honest cross-examination to lock people to their testimony, serve as protection? Shouldn't, at this stage, the credibility of witnesses be examined? If you don't know, there was a prior variance application and the credibility of District 87's reps are in serious question. Welcome to the community! It is truly great that you are weighing in. The lights are not inevitable!
Mark D. September 11, 2011 at 04:26 AM
Obama?  This is not forum for political forum.   Bottom line- It is great to have the option for our athletes to play under Friday Night Lights or an occasional sat afternoon.  Come on folks, what is the big deal??? Good for Glen Ellyn.  I moved here for my family.  This makes sense- Don't complicate the discussion.   It is good for this community-
Marilyn September 11, 2011 at 05:30 AM
Mark, please notice that some people think it is NOT good for this community. YOU think it's good. Fine. When the referendum comes up, please vote FOR lights. But your've missed a few important points: 1) this is not for Friday night football., 2) this is for practice by other sports, allowing them to practice into the night close to the high school, 3) football will be elsewhere, even football practice will not be at Memorial, 4) at most one additional period of activity would be accommodated by these lights, with the number of students put at maybe 30 tops, 4) SO please stop envisioning "Friday Night Lights" and happy families gathering to watch the boys play football as the issue, 5) rentals to paying sports teams apart from school teams might, however, be the "play under lights" you envision. That would mean that it would be outsiders, not locals, who get to play those Friday Night Lights events. This presents a different picture from "our kids playing on our fields" doesn't it?
Samantha Liss September 15, 2011 at 09:42 PM
Hey folks! I really hate to delete comments but let's use our real names. I will not allow "screen names" in this forum. I really think those "fake names" lead to a less civil discussion. We're all neighbors here, we should be able to have the same civil discussion in this space as we do out on the block. Thanks for your patience everyone and thanks for the great dialogue!
Rich Magurkey September 15, 2011 at 10:47 PM
So Samantha Liss why haven't all these "short name" comments been deleted yet? You didn't waste any time deleting loads of comments a week or so ago.
Ramona September 16, 2011 at 12:07 AM
I was very shocked at how poorly Mr Ozog's arguements were, and he just seemed to harass the principal. I have always been in favor of lights, I think it is silly to ship so man kids all over town. I know that we will still be shipping kids but even a few staying here is much safer and cheaper in the long run. I don't feel for people near the school, that place and Memorial Field have been there since time began. Noise and traffic, ever go to a field hockey game or lacrosse game? Yeah, neither does anyone else. Any way, the tennis courts are still between any houses and the field, and 20 fans at a lacrosse game will never be able to out shout the trains!
Marilyn September 16, 2011 at 03:55 AM
Marilyn Wiedemann "that place and Memorial Field have been there since time began." Yup, you have the point. Memorial Field was a park, dedicated to the memory of WWI veterans. People pickniced there, played ball there, walked there. Much like the area beside the tracks in Hinsdale. Then the Park District decided to share it with the high school for athletic practice. Worked fine. Until other schools in the disctrict got cornfields for schools and turned up with turf, lights, stadium seating, and lighted score boards. Suddenly some GE folks felt competitive--and we're off to the races. I DO feel sorry for the neighbors there. "Sleepy Hollow" has turned into Wrigley Field. If you liked this scenario, just wait until the folks living on the Lake experience the turf/light wars at Duchon.
Samantha Liss September 16, 2011 at 01:37 PM
Hi Rich, we're still figuring out what works best here at Patch. We don't want to stifle conversation but don't want people to hide behind a computer posting under screen names.
Jay Donovan September 16, 2011 at 07:04 PM
The issue involving 'screen names' or 'fake names' is nearly impossible to resolve. The Federalist Papers were written under the pseudonym 'Publius'. Those historic essays promoting ratification of the U.S. Constitution probably wouldn't be published today by Google Plus. Anonymous posters trolling boards disregarding polite, civil discourse is a real problem. The Administration of and policing message and comment boards is a full time job. It is unfair to expect an incredibly valuable yet small, local media outlet to deploy such resources. It is fantastic that there is a forum for anyone to weigh in and that there is a hot, ongoing debate. We can all agree to disagree. Let's all agree to keep it civil, ok?
Candace Pydo September 16, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Mr.Ozog was not making an argument or a presentation. Presentations by advocates for preserving the neighborhood will not begin until after cross-examination. Please understand, as stated in an earlier response, this hearing before the Planning Commission is a legal proceeding. As such, Mr. Ozog’s duty is to seek the facts of this issue before the Board, thus committing the sworn testimony to the record. Mr. Ozog’s questioning of the District 87 Representatives and their expert witnesses is simply that. Frankly, it was the Principal that might be called out as her attempts to be evasive during testimony were both unproductive and unacceptable at best. Mr. Ozog repeatedly requested the Principal to confine her testimony to “facts” not her opinions. This inquiry is not intended to provide a platform for discussion; again, this proceeding is a fact based inquiry. I recall the Principal refusing to and/or unable to answer the questions with fact based research to support her sworn testimony. .
Candace Pydo September 16, 2011 at 08:22 PM
Cont. One of the central issues regarding Lights at Memorial is in fact serious safety concerns. You state you believe lighting the field will be safer for the students. Please take an opportunity to spend some quality time in front of Glenbard West as the school buses line up on Crescent Blvd, the commuters stream home, both on foot and in cars and the young athletes cross Crescent to head home or to buses or their parents cars illegally parked next to the school. Case in point, yesterday I witnessed 4 buses lined up on Crescent, their Stop Signs out, cars backing up in both directions on Crescent, frustrated drivers making illegal u turns and 2 Glen Ellyn Police cars (lights on) chasing illegally parked parents from Ellyn. Keep in mind, it wasn’t dark, it appeared to be a soccer practice, imagine if there was a game…. Safer for the children…I don’t think so.
Rich Magurkey September 16, 2011 at 10:28 PM
Candace, you are correct about the traffic congestion on Crescent during rush hour. This will remain problematic with or without lights. However, since the lights will be turned on later in the day, after commuter rush hour, the traffic will most likely be less congested on game/practice nights than what you witnessed yesterday and won't be any more of an issue than we have every rush hour. Also regarding an earlier comment about people picknicking at Memorial Park, that is totally inaccurate. I'm sure that someone at some time picknicked there but honestly, I have passed the park at least two times per day for 27 years and rarely saw anyone there. Also, will someone confirm whether or not a referendum on this issue has been authorized? I know it was suggested but have not heard that any decision has been made. I look forward to voting FOR lights along with the hundreds/thousands of others who also approve (based on the multitude of yard signs supporting the idea)..

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