On January 11th, 2011, Francis W. Parker School announced
plans to install stadium lights on its Lincoln Park field: four six-story light towers, lights on as early as 4:30 PM and as late as 9:00 PM; up to 100 lighted nights. All of that in the
midst of one of Chciago's most prized public areas.
first told its neighbors about its lighting plans, we were given ten days to submit all questions to the school. Despite repeated requests, the school refused to furnish us plans.
Parker’s neighbors quickly organized and launched a petition drive and a website. Within two weeks, more than 500 Chicago residents had signed the no-lights
petition. By mid-February, all of the aldermanic candidates for the 43rd Ward – including the current
alderman, Michele Smith – had declared their opposition to stadium lighting. Nine buildings took official stances against Parker’s proposal.
When Alderman Smith took office, she convened a community relations
commitee composed of Parker officials, residents from neighboring buildings, and Parker parents. In 2012, Parker and its neighbors executed an agreement.
The heart of the agreement is a City of Chicago ordinance that
prohibits permanent lighting on Parker's field: "No permanent lighting will be permitted on the athletic field."
For the text of the ordinance, click PDF 1 & PDF 2.
The legislative history of the ordinance is here
To change this ordinance, Parker would have to give six months'
notice to its neighbors and would then have to comply with the most rigorous approval procedure: a major amendment to its Planned Development. That would require hearings before the Plan
Commission and the City Council Committee on Zoning, and the passage of an approving ordinance by the City Council.
Under the agreement Parker executed with its neighbors, the school
will not be permitted to circumvent these provisions by using temporary stadium lights (mobile light towers) to illuminate athletic events.
Parker is permitted to lease its new turf field to third parties.
However the participants must be 18 years of age and younger, and leased uses may not continue past 7:30 PM.
For a chronology of the 2011 field lighting controversy, click here