A crowd of 1,981 people was on hand Friday night to see Darien play their first ever game under the new stadium lights. While this game was not the first one played using the lights (that honor belongs to the field hockey team), there still was no shortage of ceremony and community support. Members of the Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson, and several members of the Darien Athletic Foundation were on hand to usher in the event.
With a 6 p.m. start time, fans were arriving as early as 4:30. The Darien police ran traffic into the high school exclusively via Noroton Avenue, and the lots and spots around the DHS campus filled very quickly.
The new stadium, as you approach it, is fairly unassuming despite the four 80-foot light poles. Music was playing in the stadium as part of pregame warm ups, but it actually was quiet on the walk up, as the new soundsystem features better speakers that are directionally pointed in a way that keeps decibels down. The new system is actually several decibel levels lower than the old system, which simply blasted music and announcers into the air, and if it was unclear, it was a matter of turning the volume up rather than making other adjustments.
The pregame ceremony was marked by a rather large crowd coming out onto the field. The Board of Education presented members of the DAF including Mark Maybell, Pete Graham, Lou Gesualdi, and Jen Montanaro with a gift for the efforts in fundraising to pay the new stadium lights, among other projects. Stevenson, Brenner, Planning & Zoning Chairman John Sini, and a number of other volunteers and town officials instrumental in the building of the lights stood and watched as the gift changed hands to commemorate the occasion.
As the ceremony ended and the game itself got set to center stage, the lights felt a bit anticlimactic. With a 6 p.m. start, sunset was still about 90 minutes away, and while the lights were on, the daylight was more than adequate for the first half or so of the game. It felt a bit like the Fourth of July, where families gather and wait for darkness, only to gaze up at the light that follows.
When it finally did get dark, the real strength of the lights became apparent. Stadium east was in darkness. To look out at the stands from the field showed just how dark they had become. But the field itself was bright. Spillage from lights barely made it beyond the new blue track that surrounds the turf.
The game ended well before the 10 p.m. cut off, allowing people to make it safely out of DHS and on their way home. The weekly brief from the Darien police contained no reports of issues at Friday night’s game. The evening amounted to a tremendous outpouring of community support for a project that took a decade of work to become reality. The football team won the game 47-0 over the McMahon Senators, but the crowd stayed for the duration, enjoying every moment of football in the new stadium.