The prospect of Edgewood High School playing its first football game on campus in two decades depends on, of all things, new lighting and sound technology.
Edgewood, which opened a $1.5 million, state-of-the-art, artificial surface field and track in August 2015, is now proposing a $1.5 million stadium on the school side of the field with seating for 1,300 fans and related amenities.
But many neighbors have long opposed the idea of turning the facility into a lighted home for Crusaders athletic programs, and residents are abuzz with concern about the glare of lights, noise, traffic, parking, usage and the impact on property values.
The high school, which needs a city amendment to its campus master plan to make the improvements, has not made a formal application. But it is in discussions with neighborhood groups, trying to convince wary residents that new technologies and design would minimize impacts and that bringing a contained number of games to the site wouldn’t impact quality of life.
“We really are trying to come up with solutions for any and all concerns,” Edgewood president Michael Elliot said.
Individual residents have strong feelings. Many nearby have deep concerns. Some are seeking more information and conditions, and others are voicing support. The Dudgeon-Monroe and Vilas neighborhood associations are engaged but holding off on formal positions.
“DMNA has heard and shared the concerns from both immediate neighbors and residents throughout the area with Edgewood High School,” the Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association said in a statement. “We hope that Edgewood will seriously consider these concerns as they decide on next steps.”
Craig Stanley, president of the Vilas Neighborhood Association, said the organization hasn’t taken a position because Edgewood hasn’t made a formal proposal. “The position is wait and see,” he said.
Ald. Sara Eskrich, 13th District, who has not taken a position, said she has received “significant feedback,” with the vast majority voicing significant concern to the level of opposition. But there is support, too, she said.
The timing of a formal application is unclear, but the school, if it can move forward, hopes to open the stadium in the fall of 2018.
The new surfaces and proposed stadium would mark a quantum advance for the high school’s athletic program.
Before 2015, Edgewood’s grass field was hard and shoddy, and its asphalt with rubberized coating track was so worn that the school didn’t allow people to run on it due to the dangers of cracks and holes, Elliot said.
The new Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Athletic Complex can accommodate football, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee, and track and field. But the facility has no lights, public address system, or other amenities, and only modest metal bleachers. The proposal would add locker rooms, rest rooms, concessions, ticket booth, storage, press box, lighting and a sound system.
The lack of lights creates challenges, Elliot said. Visiting schools don’t want to play afternoon soccer games because travel cuts into the school day, so Edgewood plays a lot of games at other sites. Also, Badger Conference bylaws require all football games be played at 7 p.m. on Friday nights, so the Crusaders have no home games on school property and play them at Breitenbach Stadium at Middleton High School.
The conditions create challenges for scheduling and transportation and raise liability concerns, Elliot said.
Due to the lack of lights, the 2015 improvements were described at the time largely as a practice facility. But the school’s description now makes some residents feel as if they’ve been misled.
At the time, Edgewood wasn’t aware of the new lighting technology and had no intent on proposing a stadium because it knew the the glare, glow and spillover of lights would have been unacceptable to neighbors, Elliot said.
“I wouldn’t want to live across the street from Memorial Stadium or Warner Park,” he said. “That’s older technology as far as lights.”
But new LED light technology eliminates glare, glow and spillage, Elliot said. “You can literally light the field, not the neighborhood,” he said.
The possibility of high-tech lights make a stadium practical for the first time, he said.
Edgewood has been sharing details of its proposal through a liaison committee that includes representatives from the school and both neighborhood associations, and has conducted two neighborhood informational meetings.
The school “has been very responsible about focusing on impacts on the immediate neighborhood and not trying to put together a broad campaign,” Eskrich said.
The complex would be used for 26 to 35 home athletic events, with crowds ranging from roughly 100 for boy’s lacrosse to 400 to 1,200 for boy’s football, Elliot said.
The lights, he said, would be used only when needed and wouldn’t be required in the late spring and early fall for soccer and lacrosse. That means only 18 to 27 athletic events, including five to seven football games, would be lighted, he said.
With the new technology, “we can keep the light on our property,” Elliot said, adding that the design is unlike any other stadium in the city and far exceeds the city’s dark sky requirements.
A special sound system would allow volume to be managed to crowd size and ensure it wouldn’t be directed to the neighborhood, Elliot said. No-sound times would be the same as lights-out times, and all city sound and time ordinances would be followed, he said.
Except for football, all proposed sports at the facility have been held there in the past, Elliot said. Most football games would draw crowds similar to basketball games, while a maximum football crowd wouldn’t exceed attendance at graduation ceremonies on campus, he said.
Football usually draws 400 to 800 people, with the largest crowds for games against Waunakee, a team not on the Crusaders’ schedule for the next four years and perhaps not beyond then due to possible conference realignment based on enrollment, he said.
The combination of various parking lots total 561 spaces, enough to handle all events onsite, Elliot said. But the school, if needed, can access more college campus parking to provide a total of 1,600 spaces, he said.
The school has no intent to market the stadium as a venue. “We’re not planning to do any concerts. We’re not planning to rent it out,” he said.