GEL NEWS: Hundreds Pack Glenbard West Library to Hear Positions on Memorial Field Lights

Lighting Lamp Design for Memorial Field

Several hundred Glen Ellyn residents and Glenbard West students packed the Glenbard West library Tuesday night to listen to proponents and opponents of the proposed installation of lights at Memorial Field during the Glenbard School District 87 Board meeting.

The 3-hour long board meeting began with regular business, including a student presentation on bullying. The tone and maturity of the students' appeal for respect of diversity and embracing qualities in others that may differ from the norm seemed to set the stage for the main topic of the evening most in the audience came to hear: should the board approve to request a variance with the village to install lights at Memorial Field within a 3-month timeframe of public debate?

View full unedited video of the February 22th Dist 87 Board meeting including Our Field Our Town presentation, public input, school district presentation and board deliberation about the proposed Memorial Field Lighting.

View full unedited video of the February 7th Dist 87 Board meeting.

View gallery of proposed lighting design, traffic conditions and accident data, and busing costs.

Two distinct groups were present in the audience. One group, Our Field Our Town, presented documentation that challenged parts of the school district plan. The group consists of homeowners living near Memorial Field and concerns citizens from throughout the community. Three representatives from this group were allotted 25 minutes to present their feedback to the board. The other loosely associated group were Glenbard West faculty, students and parents of students, representing the end users who would benefit from enhanced and extended playing fields at the newly renovated Memorial Field.

Our Field Our Town’s presentation to the board reiterated points made verbally at the February 7 board meeting. Public comments at that board meeting were restricted to five minutes per person.

At the heart of Our Field Our Town’s opposition is the unclear traffic remediation proposal to address existing safety concerns with pedestrian and vehicular traffic congestion in the Glenbard West area along Crescent Boulevard. According to Village of Glen Ellyn Police accident data, in 2010 Crescent Boulevard had more than double the amount of traffic accidents than in any year prior leading up to the Memorial Field renovation. This data has not been disputed by the school district and has not been included in their traffic study documents.

Additional concerns presented were possible blinding conditions to motorists on Crescent who might be impaired when driving along Crescent and are exposed to varying degrees of light intensity from field lights within short distances. The proposed lighting design nestles tightly within Crescent Boulevard and the field area, which accommodates a football/lacrosse/soccer field and softball field.

There are concerns with how the installation of lights would be funded. Don Pydo shared financial information about the initial plans to fund the renovation. At the onset of the project, three entities – the Glen Ellyn park district, school district 87 and a private citizen’s group Gain Ground - were to equally share the costs to renovate the field at approximately $1.7 million. Eventually, school district 87 absorbed $1.2 million while the park district contributed $160,000 and Gain Ground $330,000. The proposed cost to install lights is $300,000. Projected costs to reconfigure Crescent Boulevard have not been determined nor which governmental agencies will fund it.

Our Field Our Town’s presentation ran beyond the 25 minute agreed upon time slot and limited the amount of the information the group had hoped to share with the board and audience. President Malcolm granted an additional 5 minutes for the group to make final remarks at the encouragement of some audience members.

Numerous individuals spoke in favor of the lighting installation. Most were Glenbard West students, with faculty and parents of Glenbard West students joining in. Joe Burrello remarked that he lives near Memorial Field and likes the sounds of athletics and the accompanying “noise pollution” from increased use of the field. Both his son Nick and daughter Katie spoke in favor of lights. Katie Burrello expressed her current frustration with having to cram in homework on the bus while being transported to and from the school and practice fields. This was a common experience echoed by many softball, lacrosse, and football student athletes. Many expressed a desire that adding lights would enable their respected teams to use the field later into the evening in the fall and spring. It's unclear from school documents which athletic programs would benefit from the extended evening schedule.

After public input, Chris McClain presented to the board to address community concerns raised at the February 7 board meeting Download PDF version of the presentation here.

While visually displaying traffic accident data from 2004 through 2008 and the location of accidents, he stated having a conversation with the Chief of Police Phillip Norton. They agreed safety is paramount for Crescent Boulevard along Glenbard West corridor. McClain stated that the police department and village would work together to ensure a solution would mitigate traffic and pedestrian accidents in that area. No details of alternative street designs were presented leaving many in the audience confused how this important issue was going to be addressed prior to the board approving adding more congestion to an already accident prone area. Estimated costs from the Village Burns and McDonnell Traffic Study to implement all traffic remediation improvements to Crescent Boulevard approach $4 million dollars. Download PDF Traffic Study./Highlighted%20Crescent%20Blvd%20Safety%20Study.pdf)

In addition to the improved quality of athletics and logistics reducing dependence on busing students to off-site locations, one of the most compelling reasons for the installation and extended use of the fields is the significant reduction of bus transportation costs.

During the 2009-2010 school year Glenbard West spent $177,800 to bus students to and from off-site sporting events (this figure is more than double the busing costs compared to any other Glenbard high school). While this number may represent a significant cost savings, McClain did not cite the exact cost benefit from increased usage of Memorial Field and the reduced transportation costs. As a major potential financial benefit, this point of emphasis will certainly need to be articulated to the board.

McClain also squelched any concerns about the use of loudspeakers by proposing to prohibit its use by rentals at any time.

Paul Pessetti from Legat Architects (http://www.legat.com/?_p=about,overview) presented light spill data that showed light levels much less than the numbers presented by Our Field Our Town representations. The reduction of light levels in the Legat report is attributed to advancements in lighting design. New lights are placed higher and have shields placed over the top to direct light down on the playing surface thus reducing the amount of unwanted horizontal light spill. Photos representing actual fields lit at nighttime show the reduction of light spill these improvements can have on surrounding properties.

It seemed a slam dunk decision was eminent for the board based on the dire need for Glenbard West’s expanding athletic field sports. During deliberations several board members wrestled with the uncertainties of safety, costs (both for the installation of lights and redesign of Crescent Boulevard), and ultimately the added use the lights would offer to which athletic programs.

Board members Steve Sebby and Yadav Nathwani seemed hesitant with the proposition of adopting enhancements without clear and direct policies on rental use, timeframe of use of lights, and clarity on which and how many athletic teams would benefit from the extended field usage. They expressed a need to have thorough community input and suggested waiting a year to see how the newly renovated fields were actually used during its inaugural year. After waiting a year, they would be more open to making a decision to move forward with the enhancement proposal. “What more do you want us to do,” asked board president Malcolm to the 2 reticent board members.

Sebby pointed out Oak Park River Forest High School’s newly installed lights as an example of a successfully lit field along a busy corridor (Lake Street), but also expressed concern that the school district board may be moving too quickly since this proposal was introduced just 3 months prior. Oak Park River Forest High School deliberated for 6 years before presenting a comprehensive lighting proposal to the Oak Park Village board. The plan included detailed use and timing guidelines.

The district 87 board agreed to revisit the proposal on March 7 and decide whether to punt the variance requests to the village and make them answer these tough questions.

Board meeting packet for February 22

Follow other online conversations on the topic at Glen-Ellyn.com.

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