Whitefish Bay Little League is requesting village permission to install stadium lighting on two baseball diamonds to accomodate the growth the program has seen in recent years.
The Whitefish Bay Little League is seeing a growing number of kids in the current divisions, and this year, the organization added a Challenger Division for kids with special needs. To accomodate the growth and the tight little league timetable, the group went before the Village Board Monday requesting lights on two of the three baseball diamonds at Craig Counsell Field.
The league has a tight schedule that plays nearly every day from April 24 through July 13. In the event of a rainout, the league has to schedule make-up games, which results in weekday double-header games that start at 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. In order to get in 45 minutes of batting practice before the first game, it requires coaches and players to be at the field by 3:45 p.m. on weekday nights – which is difficult for working parents.
"Every coach is a volunteer and it is tough to leave work early to pitch batting practice for a 4:30 game," said Whitefish Bay Little League President Josh Levy. "I'm sure the parent and grandparent spectators prefer a later start time too."
With the additional lighting in place, the league would be able to have double-header games start at 6 p.m. and another game start at 8 p.m. and finish by 10 p.m. Although these times are not set in stone, Levy said 10 p.m. does not sound unreasonable, since that's when the Cahill lights go off in the summer.
"The number of fields cannot grow and we do not think the neighbors or our league families want an extended season," Levy said. "The plan in no means calls for night games every day of the season."
Additionally, Levy said the new lighting would create a safer playing field for currently-scheduled games, which end at 8 p.m.
"On a cloudy evening in April or May, it can get pretty hard to see at 8 p.m.," Levy said.
After hearing the proposal, the Whitefish Bay Village Board scheduled a joint Plan Commission and Village Board public hearing about the project for Feb. 18.
In advance of the meeting, little league leaders will be inviting neighboring residents to a community meeting to hear their concerns about the project. Levy said the details of the project will only be finalized after meeting with residents and hearing their concerns.
"We want to work with the neighbors so this project balances all interests," Levy said.
The lighting proposal has already drawn concern from neighboring residents like Maressa Kane, who lives on Lydell Avenue, just south of the parking lot. She says she hopes her child will play little league when they are old enough, but the traffic congestion that the little league has brought to her neighborhood has become too much to bear in recent years.
This past summer, there were times Kane couldn't get out of her own driveway because the street was so clogged. Another time, a little league parent actually parked in her family's private driveway.
"Once the lights go in, it will only exacerbate those existing issues," Kane said. "The little league has been successful for many years, and it will continue to thrive without lights. We can't say the same for our neighborhood, where we could see a negative financial impact on our home values."