A Madison City Council member is floating a compromise to let Edgewood High School move forward with a controversial $1 million, 1,200-seat stadium that would allow night-time games in the neighborhood for the first time.
Ald. Allen Arntsen, 13th District, who represents the site, said he’ll support an amendment to Edgewood’s master plan to allow 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 has been seeking a maximum of 40 nighttime uses for the stadium and its $1.5 million, state-of-the-art artificial surface field and track.
The limitations would be in place through the remainder of the current, 10-year term of the master plan, which expires in 2025.
“It’s a compromise that recognizes the different interests involved,” Arntsen said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
Edgewood president Michael Elliot could not be reached for comment.
The school hasn’t played a home football game in two decades due to the lack of lights, and proposed improvements would add seating, team rooms, restrooms, concessions, ticket booth, storage, press box, lighting and a sound system.
The proposal has sharply divided the surrounding neighborhood with yard signs in front yards and a stream of social media postings and letters to the editor.
“It’s very divisive,” Arntsen said. “I’m surprised at the level of anger, stress and angst about it.”
Supporters say the time is ripe for a stadium because Edgewood’s 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.
But many in the immediate area and surrounding neighborhood have concerns about lighting, sound system and crowd noise, traffic, parking, uses, and the impact on property values and wildlife at Lake Wingra.
The Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association, which opposes the proposed amendment, declined comment because it needs time to discuss Arntsen’s proposal, association vice president Rachel Fields said.
The Vilas Neighborhood Association has supported the improvements.
“I think he is doing his job as alder as he has taken all inputs of his constituents and has come up with a compromise,” association president Samip Kothari said.
“While the VNA understands that neighborhood concerns remain, we believe Edgewood has acted in good faith to address these concerns. Overall, the VNA council feels the enhancements will benefit the Vilas neighborhood and the Monroe Street business corridor.”
The Plan Commission is scheduled to consider the proposed amendment on Jan. 14 with a final City Council decision set for Jan. 22.
Arntsen, in a posting on his City Council web page on Tuesday, wrote that he does not consider the proposed improvements to be an incompatible use on the Edgewood campus, but agrees with opponents that the use should minimize the disruption to neighbors.
The school’s amendment offers technical information related to the proposed light and sound systems, plus crowd and parking management strategies and event hours, which should remain and be enforceable as part of the master plan, Arntsen wrote.
But because the improvements haven’t been made, the impact on neighbors is uncertain, so limiting the number of nighttime events is important, he wrote. Five football games would total 10 to 15 hours of nighttime use a year, he wrote. The experiences at a new stadium can be used to set appropriate limits in the next master plan, he wrote.
Although the current master plan limits the use of the field to physical education and practices, the omission of competitive events seems to be an oversight considering the historical use of the field for athletic events since the school’s founding in 1927, Arntsen wrote. But the use of the field seems to have increased in recent years, and it’s appropriate to freeze the level of that expansion through the term of the master plan, he wrote.
“The only effective way to limit the disruption is to limit the number of events,” he said.
But Arnsten also wrote, “I encourage and remain open to a reasonable resolution of the dispute. Absent that, this is the position that I plan to take with the Plan Commission and City Council on this issue.”