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West Hartford Coalition Pushing for Athletic Field Lights

A group comprising students, parents, teachers, and community leaders from both Conard and Hall are actively lobbying for permanent lights for the turf fields at the high schools.

A consortium of local advocates is working to bring West Hartford out of the dark ages — literally.

It's a discussion that has taken place in communities all over the state, as well as in West Hartford. And in most cases, towns have made the decision to install permanent lights on their athletic fields.

"There are 32 teams in the CCC, and only seven of those schools don't have lights. Three of those schools are in West Hartford," said Bob Macca, who is spearheading the effort to bring lights to the turf fields at and . (The third school is Northwest Catholic.)

The group "West Hartford High Schools Unite for Lights," a coalition of high school students, parents, teachers, and community leaders from throughout town, has begun circulating a petition through email distribution lists. They have also scheduled meetings with neighbors near both public high schools to garner support for lighting the fields.

"I absolutely support it," said West Hartford Public Schools Athletic Director Betty Remigino-Knapp. "It will be great for the community to maximize the use of the fields, not just for the high schools but for all the youth sports as well."

"I think it's become the norm. It's not just about the sports; it's a community builder," said veteran Conard Varsity Lacrosse Coach Bill Condon. Night games would be a positive and popular activity for students as well as others in town, Condon said.

West Hartford High Schools Unite for Lights has also reached out to organizations that work with local teens – including The Bridge Family Center, HopeWorks, The Grounds, Community of Concern, and the West Hartford Substance Abuse Council. All, said, Macca, support the effort to increase the usefulness of the high school fields, and to allow evening sporting events which are "safe, positive outlets for our youth."

Temporary lights have been rented for football playoffs, most recently last November when both in the first round of the Class LL State Football Championship.

Several years ago, rented lights lit the fields at each school for an entire week during the fall, allowing for night soccer and field hockey games as well.

"The neighborhoods were positive about it at the time," said Macca.

Illuminating the turf fields with temporay lights costs approximately $4,000 per contest, according to the group's petition. However, temporary lights will not be a viable solution for future football playoffs.

A new CIAC regulation, which will take effect next fall, requires permanent lights at fields being used for playoff games. Any West Hartford school earning a home field berth would have to have the game moved to a neutral site outside of town. This, according to West Hartford High Schools Unite for Lights, will result in decreased participation from the community as well as reduced revenue from sales of tickets and concessions.

According to details provided in the petition, the turf field at Conard was used for 70 different varsity and junior varsity contests in 2011 alone. In addition, youth lacrosse, soccer, and football teams utilize the turf fields. Lights would increase the usability of the fields for all of those teams, proponents say.

The latest generation of field lights are much more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly. Hooded lights like those offered by Musco Lighting shine straight down, illuminating only the field with "no more light spill than the moon," Macca said.

The cost of lighting, which has always been a concern, may benefit greatly from funding included in H.B. 5358 passed in the just-ended legislative session. According to Town Manager Ron Van Winkle, grant money has been specifically appropriated as part of this school building project act which will fund 40 percent of the cost to light the turf fields at both West Hartford high schools – up to a total of $250,000. The bill is awaiting the governor's signature.

The remainder of the money will be raised through private funding, support from youth leagues, and perhaps federal development assistance, Macca said.

The group has sent out a letter and already scheduled meetings with neighbors – abutters whose properties are within 500 feet of the schools – hoping to gauge their opinions before beginning the formal zoning application. Conard's meeting is June 5, and Hall's is June 12.

The approval process will take several months, and Macca said that next spring would be the soonest possible target date for light installation.

"Our big thing is, we have to win in zoning," he said.

Paul McConnell May 14, 2012 at 08:37 PM
A long time coming. This will indeed be a community builder!!
Scott Porter May 14, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Friday night football games! You get my vote.
Paul McConnell May 14, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Amen Scott. Friday Night Lights is an American tradition (and Sat night soccer/field hockey will be safe and postive place as well).
Robin Brennan, Realstor May 15, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Excellent! We need lights on our fields especially in a town like West Hartford that is known for it's community. Bring it on!
Latasha Eason May 15, 2012 at 02:29 AM
I think It's a great idea....gives the ppl in the community a chance to experience something different such as night games....It's positive for the kids in the community giving them an positive thing to do on a Friday night!! I'll support in anyway!!
Ronit Shoham May 15, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Lights at the high schools will be a wonderful asset to our town! A safe and fun place for our kids!
Mike May 15, 2012 at 10:27 AM
A win-win for the community and long overdue
Elizabeth Petry May 15, 2012 at 10:33 AM
A wonderful opportunity for our great town, our youth, and our youth of all ages!
Jen Heintz May 15, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Please no. Unless they are solar powered and not in my backyard (I live by Kennedy park so thank goodness they aren't). I won't pay more taxes to have some boys throw a ball. I might if they let girls on the team. My father in heaven RIPwas WHHH class of ''50. He'd be turning in his grave if he weren't already spinning in his urn in my china cabinet and swirling around a tree in pope park.
Kerry May 15, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Long overdue for West Hartford. Great for community.
Sue Piccone May 15, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Sue Piccone A wonderful opportunity for our community! Let's give our youth a safe and fun place to be.
Cissy Graumann May 15, 2012 at 01:49 PM
Something fun (and safe) for the high school kids to do on a weekend night! Just a Positive any way you look at it!
Ruth Lawlor May 15, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Lights at Hall would be a wonderful way to continue to grow school spirit within the community.
michelle urciuoli May 15, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Sending our kids (who have earned homefield advantage during playoffs) to a "neutral site" is ridiculous! Let's give our athletes facilities they deserve and can be proud of. Bring on the lights!
John Souza May 15, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Family Fun on a Friday or Saturday night sounds like a great idea to me!
katie rose May 15, 2012 at 03:37 PM
It is about time, can't wait to see boys and girls play under the lights on their home turf. West Hartford is a great town, lights on the high school fields will only make it better.
R.C. Pond May 15, 2012 at 06:42 PM
This should of been done years ago. Not only football, think of all the other sports that will benefit! It will also help with scheduling officials andother benefits.
Steve Fisher May 16, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Evening events under the lights will provide a great, safe outlet for our kids. It's past time! Let's not be the last CCC town to get lights.
Judi Houpert May 16, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Jen, as I understand it, all teams will have the ability to use the lighted fields including girls teams (soccer, field hockey and lacrosse). Also, I am pretty sure the intent is to raise the money to pay for them through private donations and grants. There is a meeting on June 5 at Conard and June 12 at Hall where you can learn more!
Judi Houpert May 16, 2012 at 02:13 AM
So excited about this! What a great thing for our town!
Bill Bohn May 16, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Lights will benefit so many and will be another great asset for a great town!
Priscilla Hooper May 18, 2012 at 03:25 PM
I can't wait!
Lewis Brown May 21, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Lewis Brown Let there be light!

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