No vote was taken to finalize softball and tennis lighting at Highland Park High School during Tuesday’s University Park City Council meeting, but it seemed the discussion did lead to progress. In July, the opposition was just as passionate as the girls asking for lights; two months later, the issue is more about usage specifics.
The school district first began seeking lights for the softball and tennis courts in 2011, but the issue didn’t even reach the City Council then; it was denied by the Planning and Zoning Commission.
But the problem resurfaced this year, now that the lack of lighting is under review by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights; many feel that the lack of lighting is a Title IX problem, because the baseball team is able to play night games at home.
Just as before, the issue had plenty of eager speakers from both sides.
“The fact that we do not have any lights puts our children on the road an additional eight to nine hours a week for travel,” tennis dad Mark Strickland said. “This additional time can also be a big difference in our kids’ academic achievements.”
Even with the concerns about Title IX, academic success, time management, and low attendance that all stem from daytime games, neighbors in the immediate area still have concerns. Those neighbors worry about excess light and noise at night, damage to the poles caused by high winds, and renting of the facilities for non-UIL use.
“We’ll suffer through it for UIL games, but [renting out] usage of the facility is just asking the citizens to bear more than we should bear,” said Morton Newman, who lives on Golf Drive but owns property on Druid Lane, directly across from the softball field and tennis courts.
Representatives from HPISD and Musco Lighting, the consultant for the project, were there to alleviate fears.
Richard Wadlow of Musco Lighting had data for the council on stability through high winds and “green” technology that has reduced light spillover in the last 10 years.
HPISD’s Jerry Sutterfield said that apart from UIL games, the facilities would be used only by youth groups. No adult leagues would be welcome.
In the end, Mayor Dick Davis decided to defer action once more to make sure that both sides fully understand the terms. However, he did close the public hearing, so any further comments from the public must be directed through email.