A group of residents asked the North Shore Board of Education at its Oct. 10 meeting to consider installing stadium lights at the North Shore High School athletic field, after the board nixed them in August from a multi-million-dollar bond proposal that the community will vote on in December.
Removing the $1 million allotted for the lights ensured that the bond proposal remained under $40 million, and if passed, the bond would cost taxpayers no more than they are paying now for a bond that the district is paying off, according to the school board. The bond proposal is set at $39.9 million.
Stadium lights would allow teams to play night games and community events to be held in the evening, but trustees agreed that other projects were more important, so the lights had to go.
Peter Liotta said he recently watched the North Shore Vikings football team play at Glen Cove High School under the lights. He described the atmosphere as electric, with roughly 200 North Shore students attending the game. He added that he saw no students drinking alcohol or fighting.
“I just wish that, in this community, we could experience that,” Liotta said, “not just for football, but for field hockey, for soccer, for whatever sports we play — to just experience that at North Shore.”
Superintendent Dr. Peter Giarrizzo said that stadium lights have long been a topic of discussion, and that it was a difficult decision to eliminate them from the bond.
Trustee Joanna Commander, a former athletic director in the Harborfields Central School District in Greenlawn, lives near North Shore’s athletic field, and said that the additional night activity and noise might bother area residents. She said she loved hearing the school band play on Saturdays during football games.
If stadium lights were installed, Commander said, she would want all teams to use the field at night, not only the football team. In that case, the field could be used several times a week, which she said could be a concern for the surrounding neighborhood.
Commander also said that students might use drugs or alcohol during evening activities. She said she has seen it elsewhere, and would not want it to happen at North Shore.
John Granelli, who lives behind the high school, said he strongly supports installing stadium lights, and has spoken with several neighbors who agree. The lights would enhance the sports program, and students’ homework habits might improve as well, he said. Athletes who take part in night games could go home after school, do their homework and then play or watch a game. When games are held after school, Granelli said, students may be too tired afterward to concentrate, and their grades could dip.
Resident Joe Livoti said that stadium lights were discussed in 1987, when he graduated from North Shore. He said they would help bring the community together, not only for games, but also for teams that wanted to practice or residents who wanted to walk the track at night. He also said the athletic field could become a place for teens to spend time together, particularly on weekends, noting that many young people hang out on the streets now.
Tom Kaufman, who has a ninth-grader and a fourth-grader in the district and who was the director of the North Shore PAL lacrosse program, asked when the Board of Education might take up the issue of stadium lights again.
“Is it realistic [for] ninth-grade parents to say we might get this by their junior year, their sophomore year, their senior year?” he wondered. “For ninth-grade parents, is it too late?”
Trustee Marianne Russo said the district would likely have to establish a new capital reserve to pay for the lights, which Giarrizzo said was possible in the future. He said the earliest the district could present a proposal to the public would be next May, and if residents voted to create the additional capital reserve, they would have to vote again to withdraw money from it.
Giarrizzo invited Kaufman, and, potentially, a group of other residents to speak with him in the future, and Kaufman accepted the offer. Commander also said she would work with Kaufman on the matter.
“There are so many issues to be worked out,” Commander said, “but I give you my commitment that I will work with you and talk about each one of those issues. It’s a wonderful thing. I think there are potentially significant problems that need to be addressed, and everybody needs to be aware of those things right from the get-go.”