Hoping to play night games at home, Edgewood High School is seeking city approval for a controversial $1 million stadium with 1,200 seats, lights, sound and more to serve its $1.5 million, state-of-the-art artificial surface field and track.
Edgewood, which hasn’t played a varsity football game on campus in two decades due to lack of lights, believes the time is ripe for a stadium because a prior agreement to play its home games at Breitenbach stadium in Middleton is no longer feasible, other facilities are heavily booked, and new lighting and sound technology can minimize impacts on the surrounding neighborhood.
“This is critical for the school,” Edgewood president Michael Elliot said. “It’s needed for us to continue to advance our sports programs and attract students. It will generate tremendous school spirit and pride. Alumni have dreamed of this day for a long time.”
But many in the immediate area and surrounding neighborhood have concerns about lighting, sound system and crowd noise, traffic, parking, uses and an impact on property values.
“In general, my constituents are not yet convinced,” Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association president David Hoffert said.
To move forward, Edgewood needs city Plan Commission and City Council approval for a change to its master plan and design approval from a committee including city, neighborhood and school representatives. The school has made recent presentations to the Dudgeon-Monroe and Vilas neighborhoods with a broader neighborhood meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Edgewood Commons, 2219 Monroe St.
Edgewood is expected to submit a request to the city for the master plan change on Nov. 7, with hopes for approvals and a start of construction in the summer and the stadium opening for the fall 2019 sports seasons.
“I’m getting a lot of email on both sides of this,” said Ald. Allen Arntsen, 13th District, who represents the site and hasn’t taken a formal position. “The community is very engaged. No matter how it comes out, there are going to be a bunch of unhappy people.”
Lighting the key
Before 2015, Edgewood’s grass field was hard and shoddy, and its asphalt with rubberized coating track was so worn that the school didn’t allow people to run on it due to the dangers of cracks and holes, Elliot said.
The new Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Athletic Complex, opened in 2015, can accommodate football, soccer, lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee, and track and field. But the facility has no lights, permanent public address system, or other amenities, and only modest metal bleachers.
The lack of lights creates big challenges, Elliot said. Visiting schools don’t want to play afternoon games because travel cuts into the school day and parents can’t watch games, so Edgewood plays a lot of games at other sites. Also, Badger Conference bylaws require all football games be played at 7 p.m. on Friday nights, so the Crusaders have no home games on school property and this year will play them at Breitenbach Stadium, Breese Stevens Field Downtown and Lussier Field at La Follette High School on the East Side.
“It’s not fun to drive all over Dane County to have home games,” Elliot said.
Edgewood’s proposal would add seating for 1,200 people, team rooms, restrooms, concessions, ticket booth, storage, press box, lighting and a sound system.
New LED light technology eliminates glare, glow and spillage, and makes the possibility of a stadium practical for the first time, Elliot said.
In the spring of 2017, Edgewood floated the concept of the stadium with lighting and sound and it was met with a mix of support and resistance. The school never submitted a request to the city to change the master plan.
Since then, Edgewood has evolved plans, reducing seating from 1,300 to 1,200 and locating amenities beneath the structure, and continued outreach to the neighborhoods, Elliot said.
Under the latest proposal, the school would use the latest LED technology on 80-foot poles with 30-foot candle power, the minimum high school lighting level and less than the 50-foot candle power used at two other prep stadiums with LED lights in the region, Elliot said.
The school would host 26 to 40 evening games per year, with lighting used for 18 to 27 of those games, Elliot said. Lights would be out by 7 p.m. for practices, by 9 p.m. for soccer, lacrosse and track and field , and 10 p.m. for football. Average attendance would range from 100 for lacrosse to 500 for football, with rare peak football attendance ranging up to 1,200.
A custom sound system would aim sound toward the stadium and campus, would only be used during games, and would meet all city amplification standards, Elliot said.
Vehicle traffic wouldn’t exceed what the neighborhood experiences at Edgewood events and the school has more than 560 parking spaces on campus with the cooperation of Edgewood Campus School and Edgewood College.
The Dudgeon-Monroe and Vilas neighborhood associations, which expressed concerns when Edgewood made its proposal in the spring of 2017, have not taken formal positions on the revised proposal.
Dudgeon-Monroe presented Edgewood with a two-page letter in May 2017 that showed support for the project from less than one-third of survey respondents.
The neighborhood appreciates Edgewood’s efforts to address concerns, and some of the technology, including the LED lighting, is impressive, Hoffert said. But there are other concerns that haven’t been addressed, such as crowd noise, and there is continuing skepticism whether proposed mitigation will be sufficient overall, he said.
“I still think there are a lot of people who haven’t had the chance to evaluate the changes they’re making,” Hoffert said. “There’s still a lot of skepticism, a lot of concern.”
The Vilas Neighborhood Association has taken no position and will discuss the proposal after the Oct. 17 neighborhood meeting, association president Samip Kothari said.
Dudgeon-Monroe will be taking a formal position later in the year, Hoffert said.
Arntsen said he is exploring conditions that would measure lighting and sound, place limits on the hours and number of events, and ensure sound parking and traffic mitigation plans.
“It’s not a yes or no,” he said. “I’m really looking at what kind of reasonable, enforceable restrictions can be placed on the proposal. If they work, they can reduce the disruptions to the neighborhood to an acceptable level.”
[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction. The original misspelled the name of Lussier Field at La Follette High School.]