Let there be light? Debate illuminates stadium controversy

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Mountain View High School running back Jai Austin runs downfield during the Spartans’ 2016 homecoming game against Hillsdale. The game took place in the evening, under temporary lights.

Lighting is on the table for Monday’s Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees meeting.

Trustees will listen to a presentation, then discuss whether to install permanent lighting at the stadiums of Los Altos and Mountain View high schools, followed by public comments on the topic. The idea arose last year, when representatives from both schools’ Athletic Boosters circulated an online petition in support of stadium lights, a move that would enable night games. Within 10 days, they had 1,500 signatures.

MVLA Superintendent Jeff Harding said the district is a long way from making any decisions and has yet to analyze the costs of a potential upgrade.

“The only thing we’ve agreed to is to have a conversation about it,” he said.

Some neighbors of both high schools have voiced their strong opposition to lights in the stadiums. Residents have launched a website and a petition centered on increasing neighborhood say in the decision-making process. The petition has generated more than 200 signatures.

Susan Gise, who lives near Mountain View High, is concerned about the light pollution, late-night activity and possibility of a noisy PA system accompanying evening games. She formed her opinion last year after attending a night game at Mountain View High featuring temporary lights. She said she saw discarded bottles of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine, condoms and a “party atmosphere.” During one of the late-night games, Gise said her husband’s Mustang was keyed, but the vandalism was neither documented nor reported.

Despite her concerns about the stadium lights, Gise said she would be willing to consider a compromise that includes agreements on who could use the stadium (students only, no rentals), how late the games would go and how many there would be each season.

Other neighbors she spoke with, however, were less conciliatory, taking a hard no-lights stance.

Gise’s fear for her neighborhood is coupled with concern for the students.

“Why not allow the children to have a balanced life?” she asked. “Why do they have to go to school, practice in the dark and go home? It leaves little time for homework, friends, sitting around the dinner table with family.”

Bob Crissman, co-president of the Los Altos High Athletic Boosters, said the lights are needed to make the day a little longer, freeing up practice and game space for athletes and musicians. He added that they need an extended day because they have more students than they used to, so they’re running out of time for everyone to practice.

“The marching band marches around in the dark when they’re practicing for competitions,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting, trustees will discuss the stadium lights and a public comment period will follow, but no vote will occur. The meeting will be held at the Mountain View High School Theatre, 3535 Truman Ave, Mountain View.

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