On Monday, October 15, the Plainsboro Planning Board unanimously approved an application for field lights to be installed at High School North, possibly as soon as Christmas.
Lights will be placed on four poles, each at a height of 70 feet. Each pole will include 11 light fixtures, and according to Plainsboro Director of Planning Lester Varga, visors on them will direct light down onto the field and into the end zones, with some projected onto the stands.
Light “spill” is estimated to be a distance of 200 feet. Pat Boyle, spokesman for the applicant — the West Windsor-Plainsboro High School Boosters Club — said the closest property line is over more than 700 feet away from the football field, with the closest house being almost 850 feet away. Boyle said that the lights at North should be fully operational for the spring sports season, so North’s lacrosse team could be playing under field lights in 2013.
Last fall Boyle sat through the contentious application for lights at High School South in front of West Windsor’s Planning Board — a meeting that lasted until 3 a.m. He says North was easier. “The only condition is the agreement with the Board of Education, restricting the usage on weekends and certain hours on weeknights. We also can’t rent out use of the lights to outside parties,” Boyle said.
Varga said that the Booster Club testified “that lights will be on no later than 9 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, and at the latest 10:30 p.m. on Fridays for some football games. They are never to be used on Saturdays and Sundays,” he said.
Fundraising remains a challenge. The total expense for the lights at both high schools come to approximately $390,000. The club presently has raised $322,000 and several fundraisers are planned throughout this school year. “We’re going to borrow the balance of the money and continue with fundraising, but we want to get the lights up,” Boyle said.
On Saturday, October 27, at 7 p.m. the Boosters Club will hold its third annual wine tasting event at the West Windsor Volunteer Fire House on South Mill Road. See www.wwphsboosters.org for more information.
Boyle, a father of three high school students currently at South, says the Boosters will have five different main fundraising activities before the school year ends. In addition to the wine tasting, on April 6, 2013, the club will hold its third annual alumni sports dinner. Boyle describes that event as a “big banquet with raffles, silent and live auctions, and honors for coaches at each school, including lifetime achievement awards.”
On June 24, 2013, the club will hold its fourth annual golf outing in Cream Ridge. The club also has been selling commemorative plaques of former WW-P high school standouts to raise money. He says at South there is a display case which has the commemorative plaques up for sale.
Finally, the club has been selling businesses pennants (hard plastic flags or banners) that hang on the light poles. At South, businesses from Century 21 to Lightning Lacrosse have bought pennants. Restaurants including Capuano’s, Aljon’s, and Brother’s Pizza have also purchased pennants, and so has the Quakerbridge Mall.
While the approval process at South was arduous, the lights have been put into use with little fuss. On Thursday, September 6, the lights were up at South but they were not 100 percent finished and approved by West Windsor inspection officials. A boys’ soccer match was scheduled to be played under the lights, but it wasn’t until the following morning at 10 a.m. that Boyle’s group secured West Windsor’s inspection and approval — just in time for the Pirates’ home football opener on September 7.
“The town was very cooperative with us; they literally came out there the morning it was done,” Boyle said.
Boyle’s three children are Patrick, a senior and defensive end on South’s football team; Caroline, a junior who plays on the varsity soccer team as well as lacrosse; and Maggie, a sophomore and a cheerleader. Patrick and Maggie have been under the lights at the same time at South’s home games, and Caroline has also played a few games under the lights.
Boyle points out how the new lights have had a positive impact on the Pirates’ overall sports scene. “A lot of people just thought it was about football, but I’ve said all along it’s a number of sports, plus band and track. Our field hockey game on September 24 had an unbelievable crowd because it started at 6 p.m. Several parents commented to me they had never seen a crowd anything like that at a field hockey game,” he says.
“One of the big pluses is that besides allowing parents coming home from work later to attend games, all the kids in other sports can go because the game under the lights is after their practices. I know they all want to stay to root each other on, and there’s been much bigger crowds and student support because they can do it now,” Boyle said.