Despite popular demand and the numerous benefits it would reap, the Carmel High School athletic field still doesn’t have stadium lights.
“I don’t know of any negatives that would come to our school from four light towers,” CHS athletic director Golden Anderson says, “and I don’t know anyone on our campus that’s against it.”
The remaining question is why: Why hasn’t CHS moved to install stadium lights?
The answer is unclear. Students have been pushing for lights since at least the 1990s, and since then there have been various reasons cited to stop the project.
“The narrative used to be that it was against our deed to have lights,” says Anderson, a class of 1997 alumnus. “But we looked into it later and found out that was just an old wives’ tale.”
Assistant principal Tom Parry recalls a similar story from his early days at CHS.
“When I first got here in 2010, I asked why, because every other school I’d ever been to had lights,” Parry explains. “Somebody told me there was an agreement with the neighbors not to have lights. We researched that, and there’s no record of it.”
Seven years later, Parry explains that the chief reason that the school has yet to install stadium lights is at the request of CHS alumni who prefer to keep sporting events on Saturdays.
School board member Rita Patel neither confirms nor denies this, saying that the “surrounding community is only one of the factors” against lights.
“There is no one reason we do not have lights,” Patel explains. “However, knowing this is a school issue, the new sport stadium is set up for future installation of lights.”
District director of facilities and transportation Dan Paul explains that in the most recent renovation of the stadium, when new bleachers were installed, some infrastructure was laid to accommodate lights, but that it would still take a “fair amount of work” to complete the job.
Patel goes on to clarify that finances are not one of the factors against lights. In other words, the school would be able to pay for the addition.
If CHS did install stadium lights, their purpose wouldn’t be only to have Friday night football games.
“At times, people associate lights with football,” Anderson adds, “but it’s really the field sports. It’s the soccer teams that can’t practice here because it gets dark. It’s the games that can’t be played here because it gets dark.”
With the current field setup, CHS sports teams are limited from using the field by a shortage of daylight hours, from field hockey and football in the fall to lacrosse and track in the spring.
Beyond equal opportunity, increased revenue is a huge supporting factor of stadium lights. According to Anderson, the most money CHS has made on ticket sales for a Shoe Game, one of the most highly attended sporting events of the year, is $7,000. During the 2013 Shoe Game played at Pacific Grove High School, PGHS collected $17,000 in ticket revenue alone.
“No one is going [to games] on a Saturday afternoon,” Anderson continues, “and no one is going to the middle school at 3:30 to watch JV soccer. But if JV soccer was at 4 and varsity at 5:30, more kids would come to watch under the lights and end up seeing the JV, too.”
Sometimes, going to Saturday games is a matter of access, as coach Matt Borek points out.
“There are people who live far away and can’t get back in town for sporting events on Saturday,” Borek says. “And I know that as a coach, having Saturday and Sunday off to be with my family is a huge selling point of the lights.”