With city decisions looming, Edgewood High School is offering neighbors a compromise on its controversial proposal for a $1 million, 1,000-seat stadium to serve its $1.5 million, state-of-the-art artificial-surface field and track.
Edgewood’s compromise, made public Tuesday, would reduce the number of proposed night games from 40 to 25, end football by 10 p.m. and other contests by 8:30 p.m., and deliver a barrier or screen that would reduce sound to homes facing the stadium on Woodrow Street.
It would also clarify language in an existing master plan regarding field use, add language to support a farmers’ market, and set overall field use at 2018 levels.
“We’re trying to make it work,” Edgewood president Michael Elliott said, adding that the stadium will help the school meet obligations to the Badger Conference while reducing the number of night games and addressing the neighborhood’s concerns about noise.
The stadium proposal has sharply divided the surrounding neighborhood, where residents have put up yard signs and authored a stream of social media posts and letters to the editor.
The Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association, which opposes changes at the site, had a cool first-blush reaction to the school’s compromise proposal.
“Once again, Edgewood is informing the neighborhood about a proposed compromise rather than inviting us to participate in it,” association vice president Rachel Fields said. “DMNA leadership has reached out to Mike Elliott on multiple occasions to offer to discuss the proposal and hear his thoughts on our concerns, and we have never heard back on these requests.”
She said Edgewood has left an insufficient amount of time to meaningfully evaluate the latest changes, but that it seems unlikely the proposed reduction of sound could materially impact concerns the association has raised, especially if the frequency of use remains high.
The Vilas Neighborhood Association has supported the stadium improvements.
Meanwhile, a grass-roots group opposing the project, No New Stadium, is alleging Edgewood has engaged in bad-faith negotiating and spread misinformation.
The group, which has obtained emails through an open records request, on Tuesday claimed the school has conflated want with need, minimized the impact of crowd noise and is fudging sound data, and is violating the current master plan.
“The administration has been misleading the public and playing games with the truth, and in doing so, has broken trust with the neighborhood,” said a spokesman, Tag Evers, who is also running for City Council in the 13th District.
“I don’t think we’ve misled anybody,” Elliott said. “We’ve gone through the process, engaged experts — not just people with opinions — and in every case have come up with a solution that meets or exceeds (standards) of the city.”
Ald. Allen Arntsen, who was appointed to represent the area that includes Edgewood but is not seeking election in April, had floated a more restrictive compromise with fewer games late last year. He could not be reached for comment.
The city’s Plan Commission is scheduled to consider a proposed amendment to Edgewood’s master plan on Monday, with a final City Council decision set for Jan. 22.
Facilities heavily booked
Edgewood hasn’t played a home football game in two decades due to the lack of lights, and the proposed improvements would add lighting and a sound system, seating, team rooms, restrooms, concessions, ticket booth, storage and a press box.
The school says the time is ripe for a stadium because its prior agreement to play home football games at Middleton High School’s Breitenbach Stadium is no longer feasible, other facilities are heavily booked, and new lighting and sound technology can minimize impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.
But many in the immediate area and surrounding neighborhood have concerns about lighting, sound system and crowd noise, traffic, parking, field uses, and the impact on property values and wildlife at Lake Wingra.
In mid-December, Arntsen said he would support the improvements, but only if daytime use of the athletic field is capped at what’s in place for 2018, and if the school’s use of lights is limited to a total of five nighttime events per year. Edgewood had been seeking a maximum of 40 nighttime uses for the stadium and artificial-surface field and track.
Now, Edgewood is proposing a maximum eight football games on Friday nights ending by 10 p.m., and up to 17 games — primarily soccer and lacrosse — ending by 8:30 p.m., with extensions for extraordinary circumstances.
A proposed 16.6-foot-tall berm, wall or combination of the two would reduce crowd noise along Woodrow Street, according to a 14-page outside study.
The compromise would also clarify language regarding field use outlined in the 2014 master plan.
In the fall, city zoning administrator Matt Tucker wrote to the school that the master plan allowed only team practices and physical education practices, and that Edgewood’s current programming, including games on campus, requires an amendment to the plan.
Edgewood disagrees with the interpretation and believes it to be the result of a drafting error, but is promoting amendment language in the compromise to allow games, camps and a farmers’ market.
The school has also agreed to Arntsen’s proposal that field use be set at 2018 levels.
Edgewood’s compromise hasn’t satisfied No New Stadium.
The group has obtained emails from Edgewood, Middleton and the city of Madison that it said show Edgewood could have continued to play its home games in Middleton and declined to continue doing so of its own accord. Edgewood had a 10-year agreement with Middleton to use Breitenbach Stadium from 2007 to 2017.
The agreement says Middleton High School varsity games had first priority for the field, followed by Edgewood varsity.
Middleton athletic director Bob Joers on Tuesday said Edgewood had been a good partner but walked away from the agreement after it expired. But he noted that Middleton’s use of the field had been increasing and that scheduling was becoming more of a challenge for both Edgewood and the Badger South Conference.
Edgewood could have continued to use Breitenbach Stadium, but “it just didn’t make sense anymore,” Elliott said.
“Middleton was very good to us. (But) near the end, there were more and more scheduling issues we had to deal with,” he said, adding that Edgewood played home games at three off-campus sites in 2018 and there were continuing challenges with other sports.
“This was never just about football,” he said.