Lights on the Turf Fields: A Losing Battle
By Will Kennedy '20
Getting lights for our turf fields has been a hot topic in the community for a long time. Personally, I am in favor of lights, and I had always wondered why we don’t have lights on our fields. I wanted some questions answered on the subject, so I went to the two people who I thought could give me the best explanation on why we don’t have lights, and whether lights could be a possibility for the future. After talking to both Mr. Lagarde and Mr. Domenech about the subject, my outlook on the situation changed. I had originally planned to write about why I thought we needed lights for our field, but after my conversations, I knew that this article needed to be more informational and less opinionated. So, these are my findings, and I have a feeling that these are not going to be the answers many of you are looking for.
I first talked to Mr. Lagarde, as I wanted to understand whether or not it is possible for the school
to get lights in the first place. The unfortunate answer to that question is no. Severn lies directly in the heart of Olde Severna Park, and getting field lights is a major project that would require approval from both Anne Arundel County and the community associations of the surrounding neighborhoods. The school has already had some experiences with the community in the past in regards to new construction projects. Mr. Lagarde gave me the example of an over-flow parking lot that the school planned to build a few years ago. Severn was taken to court by the community over the parking lot and lost its ability to build the lot because of the light pollution that it would cause from the extra cars coming in at night. Since light pollution is an issue in regards to a small parking lot, attempting to build massive field lights would likely have a similar outcome to the parking lot situation.
Despite knowing that the field lights situation is looking extremely difficult at this point, I still wanted to know where Mr. Lagarde and Mr. Domenech each stand on the issue personally. Mr. Lagarde told me this: “It is my firm belief that we should not [have lights], and that is because athletics need to have an appropriate place in the hierarchy of what a school feels is important.” Mr. Lagarde went into more detail, explaining that with field lights comes an increased focus on sports, not only from the students, but also from our faculty, many of whom coach. This goes against Severn’s philosophy of prioritizing academics over athletics, and its philosophy that sports in schools are meant to be a supplement to academics. Mr. Domenech had a similar view, citing a week two years ago where the boys’ lacrosse team played two night games in one week. Mr. Domenech said, “By the time Friday rolled around, I could see in our kids, as I talked to them, they said, ‘Man, playing these night games is so tough with trying to get your work done. It’s tough to do it beforehand because you’re focused on the game, and then coming home late at night.’ I got to see it firsthand.”
Both administrators explained how lights would not only be used for Friday night football games, but would inevitably end up being used by teams on weeknights, when students need to be focusing on their work. These points from Mr. Lagarde and Mr. Domenech make sense, and they are points that I think most of us don’t think of when advocating for lights on the turf fields. Severn is an academically-driven independent school, which means that field lights, and thus late nights for athletes, do not fall in line with the school’s philosophy.
Before discussing turf field lights with Mr. Domenech and Mr. Lagarde, I was a major advocate of lights on the field, but after meeting with them, I have come to recognize two realities: Severn physically cannot install lights without major community opposition, and the school itself does not believe lights are a good idea. These facts are not what I, and presumably many students, wanted to hear, but they are important to know so we do not continue to fight an uphill battle. While some students are going to be disappointed by this, it’s also important to recognize the valid points that the school is making. It is also important to remember that just because we do not have lights, doesn’t mean our student body should not come to games and support our teams.