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posted: 3/30/2012 4:36 PM

Lisle school district revisits field lights debate

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  • The Lisle Unit District 202 school board has created an advisory committee to review a proposal to install lights at Lisle Junior High School's Wilde Field. Lights at the field near Center Avenue would allow sports teams from Lisle High School to play night games there.

       The Lisle Unit District 202 school board has created an advisory committee to review a proposal to install lights at Lisle Junior High School's Wilde Field. Lights at the field near Center Avenue would allow sports teams from Lisle High School to play night games there.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 

A decade after a Lisle village board decision banning lights at Lisle Junior High School's Wilde Field, the once-controverisal idea has been resurrected by residents who have taken their cause to the school district.

Now Lisle Unit District 202 has formed an advisory committee to explore whether Lisle High School's sports teams should continue playing night home games at Benedictine University or have lights installed at Wilde Field for soccer matches and Friday night football games.

School board President Pam Ahlmann said residents first approached District 202 late last summer with an offer to pay for the installation of lights at the field near Center Avenue. The group includes parents, high school alumni and supporters of the earlier lights proposal.

"Among the reasons they expressed for resurrecting this issue was to give the district a 'home field'; preserve the tradition of Wilde Field; enhance spirit; (get) more control over scheduling and concessions; and to ensure games played at Wilde are never cut short due to darkness," Ahlmann wrote in an email.

The estimated cost of the lights is $125,000, officials said. Wilde Field's press box also would be rebuilt by the residents, who would raise the money through grants and other sources.

Ahlmann said the school board hasn't taken a position on the lights proposal. It first wants to hear from the new Wilde Field Lights Advisory Committee that will analyze the financial, political and social impact of pursuing the project.

The advisory panel, which meets for the first time on Monday night, will prepare a report that's expected to be submitted in late summer to the school board.

Lisle High School's football, soccer and track teams have been using Benedictine's stadium ever since the village and university worked together to build the lighted complex that's also made available to neighboring Benet Academy.

When the Benedictine facility opened in October 2004, it officially ended an often bitter debate between Lisle and District 202 over lights at Wilde Field.

In 2002, District 202 pitched a plan to install lights at Wilde -- only to have village trustees reject the idea after neighbors complained about potential glare, noise, vandalism and traffic.

The district sued the village, claiming its vote was unreasonable. But a DuPage County judge in April 2003 upheld the village's decision. He urged the school district and village to find a compromise.

Less than two weeks after the judge's ruling, village trustees began looking for an architect to design the sports complex at Benedictine, which includes a 3,000-seat football and soccer stadium.

Ahlmann said the arrangement between Benedictine and District 202 automatically renews but either party can end the agreement with one-year notice.

In the meantime, lights aren't the only advantage the Benedictine facility has over Wilde Field. The stadium also has more seats, more parking and synthetic turf.

In a report presented to the school board in October, the high school's athletic director indicated synthetic turf would need to be installed at Wilde Field. That idea would cost an estimated $1.25 million.

Meanwhile, the Wilde Field neighbors haven't been forgotten by the district. Some neighbors have been appointed to the advisory committee.

"It is the board's understanding that neighbors are aware there have been discussions regarding lights," Ahlmann said. "The committee will be researching the impact on the immediate neighborhood."

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