Editorial: Friday night lights

Not again.

That’s what will often cross the mind of some when permanent field lights are mentioned in Darien.

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It’s been a continuous battle for the last several years — one that seemed to be halted temporarily by portable lights for practice only, with strict limitations.

This week, due to two storms, a change in Darien High School’s football team schedule forced a game to be held this Friday night.

The game was also scheduled to be a home game. However, because Darien High School’s field has no lights, the team will now be playing their home game at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk.

As Darien’s football coach Rob Trifone pointed out this week, and surely even the non-sports minded will understand, there is a psychological benefit to playing at “home.” Bigger crowds, familiar surroundings. Your “turf,” literally.

Neighbors of the high school have some valid concerns over permanent lights. Noise, traffic, the light spillage into their homes — those are understandable.

The town’s Planning & Zoning Commission has generally supported the neighbors’ position while facilitating the compromise of practice lights, and the protection of neighbors’ rights is admirable.

But there’s a bigger picture than just a game, or a football team, to consider.

Next week, when Darien takes on New Canaan for the annual Turkey Bowl, the stands will be crowded, friends will reconnect, neighbors and families will cheer on their town’s team. The overriding emotion is one of a community bonding.

That is the emotion that many describe feeling at a night game under the lights.

Permanent lights may not be the answer, but extremely limited practice lights, while better than nothing, are not truly a compromise.

The only real compromise would be one that would include some games under the lights.

A temporary use of game-regulation lights, even if it is just for post season, or special circumstances like Friday night’s game, would be a true compromise between the school community and neighbors. In a small town like Darien, neighbors are often required to make sacrifices, temporarily or otherwise, when something is viewed as beneficial for the community as a whole — just ask the neighbors of the current redevelopment of Allen O’Neill.

With Westport’s recent addition of permanent lights, debuted in September, Darien remains the only school in the FCIAC that is unable to host night games under the lights.

The bottom line is that the current Darien High School, which opened its doors in 2005, cost the town $75 million.

The entire community helped fund that investment and the entire community continues to fund the maintenance and upkeep of that facilitly.

Shouldn’t the entire community’s needs and wants be taken into consideration when making decisions on a community asset like Darien High School?

In the meantime, cheer on the Blue Wave as it takes on Bassick at Brien McMahon High School at 6 p.m. Friday night.

Though it isn’t actually in Darien, enough community support can make it feel almost like home.

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