Wauconda residents whose homes abut the local high school's football stadium are celebrating the District 118 school board's promise not to double the height of a section of fence around the field.
A taller fence, they say, would have hampered their ability to watch football games from their backyards, a fall tradition in the neighborhood.
"We're ecstatic," said Cheryl Thompson, who lives on the 500 block of Brown Street.
Thompson's backyard is near the 20-yard-line at the north end of Wauconda High School's gridiron. A 4-foot-high fence separates her property from the field, which is on the campus' west side.
For years, people have gathered in Thompson's yard on Friday nights to watch the Bulldogs' home games.
"(We) put out lawn chairs," said Thompson, whose husband, Gary, is a Wauconda Township trustee and a former school board member. "Sometimes we have five people back here. Sometimes we have 20."
Wauconda Unit District 118 officials planned to install an 8-foot-high fence around the field as part of a $2.2 million construction project this year.
In addition to the fence, artificial turf will replace the grass field, a new running track will be built and new bleachers will be added, among other changes. The work is under way.
The taller fence was proposed to protect the district's investment by keeping people off the field and the track, Associate Superintendent for Business Services William Harkin said.
The stadium work is included in a $14 million districtwide construction plan.
The school board approved contracts for the projects in March. That same month, Thompson and her neighbors received a letter from the district about the project and the fence.
They weren't happy.
"When we saw the 8-foot fence, everybody (said), 'No way,'" Thompson said.
Among the opponents was Chael Tiller, who moved to the 500 block of Brown Street with his family a year ago. Being able to watch football games from his yard is important, Tiller said.
"That was the reason we bought the house," he said.
Thompson, Tiller and other homeowners spoke against the fence plan during the school board's committee of the whole meeting Thursday.
In addition to expressing concerns about being able to watch games, some complained the taller fence might create an industrial look in their backyards.
After considering the residents' feelings on the matter, officials pledged not to replace the stretch of fence that separates the homes from the field. The rest of the fence will be replaced as planned.
Harkin appreciates the residents' support of the school and the Bulldogs. He called them the "first line of defense" against trespassers.
"They do protect our fields on the weekends," Harkin said. "They've been great neighbors."
Tiller was thrilled with the board's willingness to change plans.
"They listened to us, and they did what was best for a small town like Wauconda," Tiller said.
The change doesn't require a formal board vote, Harkin said. Officials simply will tell the contractor to leave the one section of fence in place.
The change saves a little bit of money, he said, and that cash will be spent elsewhere on the project.