Overseeing his team’s conditioning drills early last week, Mountain View High football coach and athletic director Shelley Smith couldn’t help but notice the first tangible signs that stadium lights are becoming a reality at his school.
They were too big to miss.
“The poles are lying there – the holes have been dug and the poles are next to them,” he said. “So, wow – progress – we’re finally getting there. It’s exciting.”
A few days later, Smith joined other masked Mountain View staff members – along with athletic boosters and district officials – for the ceremonial groundbreaking of the stadium lights project.
Later that Thursday, Superintendent Nellie Meyer, Associate Superintendent Mike Mathiesen and the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Board of Trustees did it all over again at Los Altos High, where school officials and boosters also came together to celebrate the dawn of lights.
“Currently in our situation it means a lot for our athletics program,” said Los Altos athletic director Michelle Noeth, whose school’s lack of field space is particularly problematic in a year when the three sports seasons have been condensed into two because of the pandemic. “This will help with our crossover period we have with sports, allowing teams to practice beyond 5 p.m. during the winter season. It will allow us to provide a little more flexibility for our off-campus coaches (and) it will allow flexibility for our extreme hot weather days.”
There’s also optimism that – to twist a popular movie phrase – “If you light it, they will come.” Fans, that is.
“We are hoping it will generate a bit more school spirit at our home games that are played at night,” Noeth said.
It may take a while for that theory to be tested. It’s likely that few, if any, fans will be allowed to attend sporting events this school year due to COVID-19 concerns.
“The kids are extremely excited to get the season in and play under lights, but it’s bittersweet for them,” said Smith, whose football team is scheduled to play the first game under the new lights when it hosts Branham at 7 p.m. Jan. 8. “They finally got the lights, but there may be no people in the stands. That’s a bummer, because that stadium would be rockin’.”
However, as Los Altos football coach Dave DeGeronimo pointed out earlier this month, his team – set to play its home opener at 7 p.m. Jan. 15 versus San Lorenzo Valley – would have instead hosted a day game in September had the season started as originally planned.
“That’s the benefit of delaying the season – the lights will be done,” he said. “It will be strange to play in January, but it will be strangely good to play under lights at Los Altos. We’re excited about that. It’s a good reward for the kids, who have been waiting so long for their season to start.”
Both local schools have been waiting for lights a lot longer. Among the last high schools in Santa Clara County to procure lights, the project was years in the making. It involved coming to an accord with neighbors and completing environmental impact reports.
“This has been a bleacher conversation at MV and LA high schools for nearly 40 years and there have been many attempts to get it accomplished,” said Brett Schiller, president of the Mountain View High School Sports Boosters. “There are countless pieces and people that finally fell into place that allowed this to work, but the key was truly getting the community together and finding solutions that worked for both groups.”
The lights and new sound systems – part of the nearly $3 million project paid for by the district’s building fund – are expected to be installed by November.
“It’s long overdue,” Smith said. “Our school is so excited. It’s great for us and our sports teams.”