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OPRF football program gets OK to host playoff games at night

The OPRF football team enters the stadium at the first home night game at Oak Park, Sept. 18, 2009. | Sun-Times Media File

Oak Park and River Forest High School will be allowed to host playoff football games at night, the Village Board decided on July 7.

Oak Park and River Forest District 200 currently has an agreement with the village and neighbors that allows the school to light its football stadium for a maximum of 60 nights over the course of 10 weeks in the spring and 10 weeks during the fall season.

That schedule allows for five Friday night games — high-energy events that some neighbors consider a nuisance.

The district recently approached the board with a request to extend the fall season by two weeks so that, should OPRF High’s Huskies make the state playoffs, the school can host Friday night games.

If granted the amendment, Superintendent Steven Isoye has said the Illinois High School Association, which sanctions the playoffs, would likely schedule just one playoff game at the OPRF High stadium, 201 N. Scoville.

That game would count as one of its five Friday night events. The Huskies were the visiting team in their one playoff game last year.

“We’re not touching the 60 nights,” said Isoye at the Village Board’s meeting on Monday. “We’re asking for … flexibility for playoff games.”

The original agreement was hard won by the school; after installing the lights in 2009, representatives from the district spent months ironing out a lighting schedule with residents, some of whom weren’t excited about the bright lights and big crowds the games bring into the surrounding neighborhood.

“They are a lot of fun if you want to be there, but you won’t be able to enjoy a quiet night at home on those Fridays,” said resident Terry Lieber.

Like many of those from the public who spoke on the amendment, Lieber made clear that she was a supporter OPRF athletics — she just wanted to make sure that the school wasn’t running away with the ball, so to speak.

“I’m asking that the high school be made accountable to maintain the limitations [of the ordinance],” she said.

The Village Board unanimously approved the two week extension.

Per the agreement, the district keeps neighbors abreast of the season schedules, hires security to work the games and meets regularly with the resident-led Stadium Neighbors Advisory Committee to discuss planning at the stadium. The school includes free game tickets in the mailers it sends to neighbors of the field.

Isoye said he believes relations between the school and the community are improving. He noted that public attendance at the SNAC meetings has dwindled as of late.

“That means we might be doing okay,” he said.

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Read about Ernest Hemingway and his ties to Oak Park by clicking here.

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