CONCORD -- A plan to install lights, a sound system and other upgrades on the Ygnacio Valley High football field has athletes and parents dreaming of "Friday Night Lights," while neighbors worry the project could trigger nightmares instead.

Paul Kitchell, a parent and president of the school's athletic booster club, said the improvements would allow athletes to practice and play games in the evenings, which would mean they wouldn't have to miss classes, and their families would be able to see them play.

Football coach Phillip Puentes said "Friday Night Lights" games help create lasting memories and bring people together as they rally around their home team.

"It creates a great buzz among the community and alumni," said Puentes, who came from Clovis, where he and other high school students looked forward to Friday night football games.

Now, students play varsity games at 4:30 p.m. on Fridays so they can be finished before dark, Puentes said. With lights, games would typically start at 6 p.m. and the fields could be used until 10 p.m., according to the Environmental Impact Report, which consultant David Clore of LSA Associates explained during a Tuesday community meeting at the school.

The district is also considering renting the field to outside groups, which when combined with school events and games could mean the lights and PA system are on as many as 170 days a year.

The district is accepting public comments on the report through Monday, before consultants finalize the document and present it to the school board later this summer. Some parents -- including former Trustee Sherry Whitmarsh -- expressed support for the project.

But, many neighbors opposed it, saying it would create noise, glaring light, traffic and parking congestion, increased trash and crime. Several also complained that they had received no information about the project from the school or district, which made them distrust district officials.

Clore said his firm found the project would not significantly impact the area's aesthetics, transportation and circulation, among other issues. However, he said there would be significant impacts to noise and air quality, among other things.

To mitigate these impacts, the district could consider not constructing the project at all, eliminating the lights or reducing the number of practices and games allowed.

Some residents disagreed with the report and said it should take into consideration additional traffic, noise and lights generated by games at nearby De La Salle and Carondelet high schools on the same nights.

Bill Cooke said he was concerned about the noise, traffic and glare of the lights, which he said are brighter than they need to be.

"Who controls the lighting intensity and the noise level?" he asked.

Another area resident said some schools throughout California are discontinuing night games because intense rivalries lead to fights and other problems, such as trash in neighborhoods. Yet another neighbor said teens conduct drug deals in her yard, and she asked the consultant to evaluate police departments' ability to respond during night games.

Timothy Lee lives behind the field's 50-yard line bleachers and said he finds bottles, cans, and food wrappers in his yard every weekend, although the school's games now attract crowds of 100 to 200, far below the 3,000 night games are expected to draw, according to the environmental report."I'm 90 years old," Lee said. "I don't want to clean all your messes."

YGNACIO VALLEY HIGH project:
Proposed improvements include:
  • Permanent field lighting and exit lighting
  • Two public address (PA) systems for school and outside groups
  • Sound wall behind the visitor's bleachers
  • Future stand-alone press box structure behind home bleachers
  • Concession stand/rest room building and future ticket booth
    The complete Environmental Impact Report is available by calling 925-682-8000 ext. 85612 or by visiting www.mdusd.org. Click on "Visit the District News Room" and then "Notice of Availability."
    For more details about the meeting, including links to video clips of the presentation, read the On Assignment blog at www.ibabuzz.com/onassignment.