CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham High football parents came to the Chatham Board of Education meeting Monday night and asked for temporary lights to be used for "Friday Night Lights" games at Cougar Field in 2020.
A previous plan to install permanent lights at Cougar Field had been opposed by a group of Madison residents who border the complex. That group brought a lawsuit against Chatham Township in 2010. But temporary lights have been set up each year for "Cougar Weekend" games that run Wednesday through Saturday in October.
"It's not a funding request, it's not a permanent lighting request," Cougar football parent Chris Carlin said. "I want to make sure that's clear."
Carlin said that parents are asking for four Friday night games during the season at no cost to the district because the Chatham Youth Football organization has offered to cover the costs. Carlin's pitch to the board can be seen in the video below.
"I'll remind everyone that this has been the subject of decades-long litigation," Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa said. "That litigation is open to a certain degree, so I don't feel comfortable talking about details relative to lights. There are a number of differing legal opinions about light structures, be they temporary or permanent, and the controlling ordinances that dictate how those structures are used. We last left off with an attorney out of Essex County that we would probably need to enlist again to visit or explore this subject.
"There is a request right now and the board can take that request into committee and look at our facilities use policy 7510 and look at our legal documentation and support with board counsel." LaSusa's comments can be seen in the video below.
Board vice president Matthew Gilfillan, chair of the finance committee, and board member Mike Ryan of the policy committee agreed to put the request on their agendas.
Board member Michelle Clark said the board should also look into the costs associated with extra security that is provided during Cougar Weekend football game so that the board can obtain a fuller picture of holding such games.
Wendy Kuppenheimer, Chatham football parent, talks about the benefits to the community for "Friday Night Lights"
The Chatham football team won three games in 2019 - all "Friday Night Lights" games - that were held at away fields in Madison, Hackettstown, and Hanover Park. The Cougars lost their Cougar Weekend game played on Saturday night.
Chatham was 3-2 in night games last season and 0-5 during Saturday day games.