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School Board OKs Purchase of South Track Field Lights, Pending Borough Zoning Amendment

by on April 23, 2019 9:56 AM

State College Area School Board on Monday authorized the purchase of field lighting for the high school's South Track field, contingent on approval of a zoning text amendment by State College Borough Council next month.

The cost of the 70-foot tall lighting and installation quoted by Musco Sports Lighting is $441,209. 

A lighted South Track field would give the State High marching band a more convenient space for evening practices, as well as expanding athletic field capacity for multiple sports teams after dark.  The band's equipment is in the new south building's performing arts wing, but its 200 members have had to take instruments and other gear across Westerly Parkway to the north campus to practice.

With Memorial Field to be closed for most of the fall for the third phase of renovations, the lighted South Track field additionally would provide an option for home football games in 2019. The district is also considering the new, still under construction North Field and the possibility of pausing construction at Memorial Field to play Homecoming and Senior Night games in October.

Borough zoning limits lighting to 25-feet high, which district director of physical plant Ed Poprik said is not sufficient for sports lighting. The school district has requested a text amendment that will allow 70-foot standards only on the South Track field.

Borough Council will hold a public hearing and vote on the amendment at its May 6 meeting.

The amendment has been discussed at four planning commission meetings since December, with some neighborhood residents expressing concerns about nuisance lighting and increased noise from additional events being held at the field.

District officials showed that the higher lights could be better angled directly onto the field than the lower ones and limit the amount of light dispersal.

In addition to the increased height for the light standards, the proposed changes as recommended by planning commission would also include an operations agreement between borough council and the school board that would define what activities the field will be used for and the duration for which lights will be turned on.

Planning commission also recommended that borough council consider whether or not non-school district activities should be permitted to use the lights.

The field is expected to be used for twice-a-week band practice in the fall as well as multiple sports.

Superintendent Bob O'Donnell said at the April 1 borough council meeting that the district is looking to potentially use the South Track field for up to five home football games this fall because it may be the best suited location while Memorial Field is closed.

"If we have to play at the North Field that’s what we’re prepared to do," O'Donnell said. "However, that’s not a fenced-in complex like the south track facility. We believe the space, the hill, would allow us to have more folks come to the event."

The school board recently approved the purchase of temporary, towable bleachers which could be used at either field. O'Donnell also said that the district would not seek to close Westerly Parkway during football games, as it does with streets surrounding Memorial Field. The North Field also will have lighting, which did not require any zoning changes.

If the lighting changes are approved by borough council on May 6, the district will place the order the following day.

"In discussions with the recommended vendor, a May 7 order would allow for the potential completion of this project in August," Poprik wrote in a memo to the school board. "If the order were delayed beyond this point, that calendar would not be realistic."



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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