GHS football lights up Friday nights

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Tue., Sep. 25, 2012
Varsity cheerleader Jade Conti - a junior at GHS - smiles at the crowd during the Tomahawks' home opener - their first game with a new lighting system at the field. Photos by Steve Smith.
Varsity cheerleader Jade Conti - a junior at GHS - smiles at the crowd during the Tomahawks' home opener - their first game with a new lighting system at the field. Photos by Steve Smith.

On Sept. 14, the Glastonbury High School football team played the first game of its new season under the newly-installed lighting system at the school's turf field. Expectations were that the team would not only have more hours per week to use the field for practice and for scheduling games, but also that it would create a community atmosphere, similar to those found in other towns all across the country. It would seem that those expectations were met, as the team cruised to a 31-6 victory over New Britain, before a crowd that was one of the largest the team has ever seen.

After the win, coach Scott Daniels said the team had practiced under the lights the night before, and the atmosphere at the game was what he and his players had hoped it would be. “It's tremendous,” he said. “The energy was phenomenal. I saw a lot of staff and students here. Our kids were pumped. It's just a different environment with the lights on.”

The lights had a “soft opening” last fall, as the system was used at the Tomahawks' last home game vs. Simsbury last season, but Lewis said this season's Friday night games brings the team a new status.

Athletic Director Trish Witkin said that, although an accurate crowd count was not available, there were an estimated 2,000 people in attendance at the game. “The turnout was great,” she said. “Everybody was really excited. It was a great night.”

Officials said the crowd was still coming in, even at halftime of the game.

Tony Lewis, president of the Friends of Glastonbury Football – the group that is footing the bill for the $250,000 lighting project – said he estimated the crowd was closer to 4,000, and that even lower estimates are a big step up from the approximately 500 that typically attend a Saturday game.

"It truly enhanced our community involvement,” Lewis said. “By definition, Glastonbury High School is a community-use place, but football brings a different meaning to that. It's a classic feeling for this time of year. Sundays are about the NFL, Saturdays – college football, and Friday nights are high school football. It works that way.”

Lewis said attendance at games on Saturdays is typically hampered simply because people have so many other things to do. Glastonbury now joins many other teams in the state that have Friday night games (which are also more-commonly featured on television newscasts).

The five home games at GHS, plus the away games at opponents' fields with lighting systems, means that Glastonbury will play nine of its 10 games this season on Fridays.

“We're kind of late to this process,” Lewis said. “Down in southern Connecticut, they've been doing this for a while, but better late than never. I think there are so many pluses to it. It brings a bigger state-wide profile for the team.”

The team's profile was already on the rise, making it to the state tournament the past four years, and winning the Class LL championship in 2008.

The approval to add the lights to the field came almost exactly a year ago, when the Planning and Zoning Commission voted in favor of adding them, as long as there were some policies put in place as far as time restrictions, after hearing from some residents from the surrounding neighborhoods, who were concerned about there being too much light, as well as concerns about traffic and noise from the games. As the lighting system's installers said a year ago, the system aims the light on the field, with very little spillage beyond it. It was apparent to those at the game that while the field was well-lit, the areas surrounding it were in relative near-darkness.

Glastonbury Youth Football Association's teams are expected to play some Saturday night games on the field.

The Friends of Glastonbury Football have raised $150,000 so far toward the lighting system, through a series of private donations and fundraisers.

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