New stadium, new problems
For years BSM has worked on its relationship with its neighbors and some conflict has emerged over the construction of the new stadium. Neighbors have listed numerous grievances, one of the biggest being that the lights are in constant use from spring through fall and cause a nuisance because they consider them excessively bright.
According to BSM President Dr. Bob Tift, the lighting meets the requirements put in place by St. Louis Park City Council. “One rule is that it couldn’t create a certain light at the property line, and we met that requirement. But then there was another part in the regulation from the city that said our lights could not produce a lot of glare. It was a vaguely written rule,” Dr. Tift said.
This vaguely written rule states simply that the glare public lights produce cannot be seen at the edge of the property. Some neighbors are so bothered by the bright stadium lights that they have come to the St. Louis Park City Council in request of rewriting the stadium light ordinance.
“Due to the BSM neighbors’ complaints, the city council is currently deciding on if lights that have already been put in place, will have to comply with the new restrictions. So if we did have to change the lights [if the new ordinance is passed] it could cost the school hundreds of thousands of dollars to come into compliance,” Dr. Tift said.
Unfortunately, the neighbors don’t see an improvement in their relationship with BSM as a possibility. “I don’t have any hope [for better relations]. I think we’ve gone more than half way to build good relations; we’ve even offered to add new trees that go on their property. They won’t even return our emails, because they’re angry with us about the light issue,” said a resident of the Fenwood neighborhood who wished to remain unnamed.
The approval of the plans for the new stadium was not an easy task for BSM because of the objections of the neighborhood residents since the very beginning of the process. “When we went to get this plan approved, they came to the city saying, ‘Don’t approve it.’ They said we were arrogant, that we just ignore them,” Dr. Tift said.
The neighbors felt that their rights were being encroached upon, so they took their concerns to the city. “That really made BSM very angry. I think the lights are much brighter than they need to be; there’s some sort of new standard because the city has discovered that their fields have the same lights,” the Fenwood resident said.
The neighbors to the school are convinced that the plan for the stadium got approved because there is favoritism. “They’ve got all the power. The city’s very accommodating to them, [BSM], because I think the city’s very proud of them,” the Fenwood resident said.
Conflict with the neighbors is nothing new, but they have escalated recently because of the mounting list of grievances from the neighbors. “I’ve lived here for 18 years, and for 15 of those 18 years, there’s been tension, and I would say there’s more tension than ever right now, and that’s due to the new field,” the Fenwood resident said.
Not all the neighbors are against this new stadium project, but the residents living closest to BSM are the ones most inconvenienced. “In completing this $4.5 million construction project, we made a lot of changes to our school. For one, we took out a bunch of trees as a part of the construction. Up until that point, the neighbors had kind of felt like they were on this nature preserve. Now our neighbors see a big stadium and lights and some of them aren’t real crazy about that,” Dr. Tift said.
But even after the building plans for the stadium were approved, in 2010, the neighbors returned to the St. Louis Park City Council with another list of requirements.
The neighbors said that in order for them to support these plans; the school would need to comply with a list of requirements. “For example, BSM cannot use these [softball] fields before 8:30 on weekends. And when we had a softball tournament and one team began warming up on those fields at 8:00 in the morning because the game was going to start at 9. The neighbors called the police because the field was being used for a warm up at 8:00,” Dr. Tift said.
Christine Lager, now a sophomore, recalls warming up on the fields that morning and said that they had made adjustments to their routine since the incident. “I was there, but the team personally was not involved…Jerry Pettinger and our coach dealt with it. It was because our warm up music was too loud, we play it through speakers at the field. We still use them, [the speakers] but not as loud,” Lager said.