On January 28th, Parker launched a new PR campaign – “Everybody plays” – which attempts to put a friendly face on what is essentially a huge expansion of night time play at the gateway to Lincoln Park.
Having created many new teams below the varsity level, Parker apparently intends to add a new tier of field use after dark. Their League doesn’t play games after dark, so who is going to be using this field? Although their statements are still murky, one possibility is that Parker will use the field for evening practices for its teams, burdening the neighborhood and disrupting the tranquility of the public parkland in order to fit in extra training time. Is the field going to be rented to third parties? Parker deploys very careful wording: its enhancements are “focused” on Parker students. What does that mean? Parker still refuses to disavow third-party rentals. Why should that be? We’ve been demanding such clarification for two weeks. What is Parker really planning?
Based upon the new materials that Parker has issued, the estimate of 100 lighted evenings that Parker gave its neighbors at the January 11th meeting is apparently an accurate forecast. Now we know why Parker never denied it. Parker does not rule out lighting morning practices. Amazingly, Parker has now added a new month of play (November) to the calendar shown to neighbors at the January 11th meeting. The lighting schedule we saw included September, October, March and April, but November's apparently in play as well. The Cubs waited a half-century for night games at Wrigley and then got 30 lit evenings a year. Parker – a small private school, not a multi-million dollar business enterprise – plans to take an unlimited number.
What will the effect on the neighborhood be? Parker attempts to play down the impact of the lighting by avoiding any mention of the size of the lighting stanchions – 58 ft. high – and discussing visors and louvers. But the unavoidable requirement of stadium lighting is enormous wattage. Parker’s four lighting towers must be aimed outward to illuminate the center of the field and all four corners. This is not a parking lot, it’s a playing field less than 75 feet away from adjacent residential buildings. Asked whether "dark sky" technology had been utilized, Parker's engineer said that it could not be applied here. All of us have seen these fields. They create an orb of bright light that will destroy the peaceful evening atmosphere of the park.
As for traffic and parking: Parker makes the puzzling claim that because the lighting project will be “focused” on their students, there will be no new traffic problems. But won’t the new nighttime athletes have to be delivered and picked up from evening play, recreating the familiar morning and afternoon traffic jam? Once this is no longer an after-school event, will families attend practices? If there are games, who will come to watch them? What about the audience, opposing teams and their spectators? Where will all of these people park?
Parker’s response to its neighbors hardly fits the school’s rhetoric about civic-mindedness and democratic process. Not once has Parker reached out to the neighbors’ group, Francis Parker Neighbors, which has in eleven days gathered more than 460 signatures on its petition to stop the lights. We have heard not a word from either Principal Dan Frank or the Board of Trustees. Parker apparently thinks that it can steamroll over the neighborhood.