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Westport Looks To Light Up PAL Football Fields

WESTPORT, Conn. – Practicing football plays in the dark is not easy, but it's what kids in the Westport Police Athletic League football program have to deal with as the days become shorter because there are no lights on the fields they use.

But the Parks and Recreation Department is hoping to get temporary lights installed at the PJ Romano and Doubleday fields behind Saugatuck Elementary School so these kids can safely practice in the late afternoons and early evenings.

"In a couple weeks from now when Daylight Saving comes around, it will get dark by 5 p.m.," said Parks and Recreation Department Director Stuart McCarthy. This is problematic because the teams generally begin practices at 5 p.m., he added.

"You've got to remember, these are volunteer coaches who have day jobs, and most of the kids don't get out of school until 3 p.m.," he said.

The PAL football program serves children from grades 3 to 8. With decreasing sunlight and no field lights, there aren't many choices: Teams can practice until it gets too dark to see or cut practices short. Both situations, McCarthy said, have flaws. Practicing with little light creates unsafe situations and not having enough practice puts the kids at risk of being hurt during games.

That's why the department is proposing a change to current zoning rules that would allow temporary lighting on town-owned school properties until 8 p.m. from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30 for practices only.

This proposal, known as Text Amendment 640, will be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission on Thursday in the Town Hall auditorium at 7 p.m. Anyone interested in learning more about the proposal or speaking for or against it should attend.

Do you have a child that plays football with Westport PAL? Do you think temporary lights need to be installed at the PJ Romano and Doubleday fields?

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