Lights proposed for athletic fields in Upper St. Clair park

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Commissioners and residents in Upper St. Clair got their first glimpse Monday of a proposal to spend up to $1.2 million to light athletic fields in Boyce-Mayview Park.

"This isn’t about playing time,“ Commissioner Russell Del Re said.  ”It’s about convenience, efficiency and putting us more on the map than we are now.“

The proposal unveiled Monday was the product of six months of meetings of a subcommittee appointed by commissioners to study whether lighting fields would be feasible or affordable.  Staff members, along with township engineers and members of the Upper St. Clair Athletic Association, joined with company representatives from Musco Lighting, a provider that agreed to offer free guidance and advice.

In the end, the group identified user groups and made recommendations based on their input and the needs of teams with volunteer coaches.  

They recommended six fields for lighting, including two multi-purpose fields used for football, soccer and lacrosse; a baseball field; a softball field; and the field and playground used primarily by the Miracle League of the South Hills, a group that gives children with special needs a chance to participate in youth sports.

Each field would be outfitted with 60-foot to 100-foot light poles that could be controlled remotely with a telephone or Internet connection.  The Web-based management system also could be automatically set to turn off lights each night at a specified time in case no one remembers to turn them off, said George Kostelich Jr., director of public works.

Mr. Kostelich told commissioners that lights from the Iowa-based Musco Lighting would be high-tech, with directional beams that wouldn’t spill over into neighboring properties and a minimal amount of glare for player safety.  If the township decides to proceed with the project, the contract for the lights and installation would need to be open for public bid, Mr. Kostelich said.

Lighting the fields would make evening games more feasible for volunteer coaches, Mr. Del Re said, and could expand participation in youth sports.

"It doesn’t matter how many fields we have here,” he said.  “There’s always going to be clamoring for more fields.”

Tom Burke, a member of Upper St. Clair Athletic Association, said all children who want to participate in youth sports get the chance.

"We simply don’t turn kids away,“ he said.  ”If a kid wants to play, we’ll find a spot.“

The USCAA favored the project and offered to raise user fees from $10 per person to $15.  The estimated additional $9,500 in revenue per year would cover electrical service costs, Mr. Kostelich said.  

"That cements their commitment to these capital projects,” Mr. Kostelich said of the athletic association.

Mr. Burke said his organization has a 10 p.m. curfew, which would be maintained, and he said the peak season for lighting would be April through July and September through early November. Temporary, portable lights that have been used for the past two seasons haven’t disturbed residents, he said.

About 80 residents whose properties border the park fields were notified that the township was considering the project. Several came to Monday’s meeting and expressed concern about traffic, spillover lighting and noise, though most said they supported the project.

"I don’t need my backyard lit up at night if somebody leaves the lights on,” said resident John Palmer, who was assured that the lights would be off by about 10 p.m.

The projected cost could be funded through $19,000 in USCAA user fees, $385,000 in field improvement funds, a $200,000 grant from the Allegheny County Economic Development gaming fund, and a potential $60,000 grant from the county’s Regional Asset District.  The township could make up the difference through its capital projects fund.

Commissioners said they would take up the issue again at the July 7 township meeting and said it likely would be some time before a final decision is made.

"We’re really at the start of the process right now,“ Commissioner Robert Orchowski said.

Janice Crompton:  jcrompton@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1159.


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