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Light ‘em up: Committee raises funds for stadium lights

 

By Patricia Gay on April 3, 2014 in Latest News, Schools & Youth

Weston’s Stadium Lights Committee would like to install lights at Weston High School similar to these that are at the football field at Staples High School in Westport.

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When it comes to lighting the Weston High School football field, it takes a village.
 
In this case, the “village” is Weston High School alumni and members of the Weston community, who have joined together with the goal of raising $325,000 to install outdoor lights on the stadium field at Weston High School.
 
The group has raised about $285,000 so far and is closing in on its goal. All funding for the installation of the lights, their operation and maintenance, is being handled through private individuals. No taxpayer dollars are being spent on the project, according to Dawn Egan who is spearheading fund-raising efforts.
 
The lighting project has a number of stages to go through though before it is approved. The Board of Education approved the project on Feb. 25, but it still needs to be reviewed and approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Board of Selectmen, and the Planning and Zoning Commission.
 
Parks & Rec is reviewing the project on Monday, April 7, at 7:45 p.m. in the Commission Room at Weston Town Hall.
 
The lights would allow for evening games and activities to be held at the high school stadium field and will benefit boys and girls sports teams in football, lacrosse, soccer, track and field, and field hockey.
The lights would also be used for special evening events such as Relay for Life and the Special Olympics. “The goal is for the lit stadium area to become a healthy community social gathering place,” said Michael Carter, head of the Weston Sports Commission.
 
He noted that Weston and Darien are the only towns in the area that don’t have lit fields.
 
Last summer, Mr. Carter organized the Stadium Lights Committee in order to raise money for the lighting project and work toward its implementation. The committee is representative of the Weston community — half its members have children in the school system, while the other half don’t, Mr. Carter said.
 
In addition to Mr. Carter and Ms. Egan, other members of the committee are Eric Albert, Mark Berkowitz, Woody Bliss, Kurt Brower, Carl Bernstein, Marc Butlein, Terri Clevenger, Peter Figliola, Ken Friedrichsen, John Holmes, Fred Lawrence, Chris Myers, Doug Narins, Steve Santa-Maria, Paul Scheufle, and Robb Thomson.
 
“Weston is an extraordinary community. When kids graduate from school, a lot of people tend to disengage, but this is a project that brings Westonites together. It gives families and people of all ages something to do on a Friday night,” Mr. Carter said.
 
Price tag
 
The $325,000 price tag for the lighting project breaks down as follows: $290,000 for equipment and installation, $5,000 for a recognition plaque and bricks, and $30,000 for contingency.
 
Groups that use the field will pay the ongoing expenses for electric bills and maintenance. “The operating costs will be split pro rata among the teams that use the field,” Mr. Carter said.
 
Ms. Egan said a lot of people are coming together to fund the project. Among the contributors are all four PTOS, Weston Youth Football, Weston High School Football, and the Weston Basketball Association.
 
In addition, the Weston Kiwanis Club is holding a wine tasting fund-raising event for the lights on April 26.
 
Also working on the cause are Abby Tanzer, a youth cheerleader, and her sister Scarlet, cheerleading mascot, who have created a Facebook tagsale page at knownbuy.com/groups/28 to sell furniture, clothing, toys, and other items in order to raise money for the project.
 
A significant contribution has also been made by alumni of the 1989 Weston High School football team. Team members, from as far away as Hawaii, have pledged $15,000 so far for the project, with more pledges coming in daily, Ms. Egan said.
 
Eric Albert, chairman of Weston’s Parks and Recreation Commission, and Gregg Slow of Weston were both members of the 1989 football team. They took the initiative to track down other team members to see if they were interested in contributing toward the lights. The response they got was overwhelmingly positive and supportive.
 
The 1989 football team was very special, according to Mr. Albert and Mr. Slow. It was the first and only time Weston ever made it to the state championships. Coming off the previous year with a 2-8 record, Weston was not expected to do well. “Our football team was the perennial doormat,” Mr. Slow said.
 
But with a new coach at the helm, and Mr. Albert’s student leadership, Weston persevered and lost only one game in the regular season, making it to the state finals. “It was a magical experience, and something I’ll never forget. While my education in Weston schools was important, what I learned on the fields was more important than anything I learned in the classroom,” Mr. Slow said.
 
Mr. Albert said he hopes the lights will be installed by September, because he is organizing a 25th anniversary reunion of the football team and would love them to gather together on the field under the lights.
Because Mr. Albert is also chairman of the Parks and Recreation Commission, he said he will recuse himself from any discussions and votes on the lighting project in order to avoid a conflict of interest.
 
Minimum spill and glare
 
The lights to be installed would be like the ones on the football field at Staples High School in Westport, Mr. Carter said.
 
Those lights are designed to shoot down onto the field, with minimum spill and glare off the field.
He said the committee took neighbors into account when considering the type of lights to be used, and opted to buy expensive ones that would be the least obtrusive.
 
Taking into account concerns about noise generated from night games, plans call for the field  to be lit only until 9 p.m., and never on Sundays.
 
The field also won’t be used two consecutive nights on the weekend. If a nighttime event is planned for a Friday, the field won’t be used that Saturday night. If there are plans for a Saturday night event, the field won’t be used the Friday night before.
 
The committee is also forming a review/grievance committee to resolve any issues that might arise with neighbors.
 
“I believe the lighting is a win/win for our student athletes and our community, and truly creates a town asset for future generations,” Mr. Carter said.