A decision by the State College Area school board on Monday started the process of making evening practices a bit easier for the high school’s marching band.
The band lost its tried-and-true practice location — the south parking lot — with the high school construction, and has taken to practicing in the north parking lot until the completion of artificial turf and lights on the North Field, slated for the spring.
But once the high school building is complete, the band room and auditorium will be located on the opposite side of the campus — in the back of the south building.
To make things easier for the band and to prevent nearly 200 band members and their directors from having to carry their instruments and equipment across campus twice a night, two time a week during the fall, the board voted unanimously on Monday to start the process of asking the State College Borough Council to amend its zoning ordinance to allow stadium lighting on the South Track — much closer to the new band room.
The topic of lighting the South Track was first brought up by Director of Physical Plan Ed Poprik during the Sept. 12 board meeting as an information/discussion item.
“If the band continues using the north side, they will have to cart all their instruments and equipment across Westerly Parkway and use the field or parking lot on the north side, which is a logistical issue twice nightly every time there is a practice,” he said. “We are proposing the thought that if there were lights at the south track, it would make their movements speedier and certainly a bit less onerous.”
Using the north parking lot has also caused other logistical issues, as the district had hoped to use that lot for its Oct. 3 public open house for the new school building from 6-9 p.m., the same time as band practice.
“That just shows you that if we’re going to lock down that parking lot, it restrains the whole campus,” Superintendent Bob O’Donnell said. “And we have close to 200 students in that band, and we have a full field sitting there vacant at that time in the evening when they typically want to practice.”
The lighting would also help address the needs of other groups that utilize that field, such as the track and field team, O’Donnell said, the largest junior and senior high extracurricular program.
The catch is that the South Track is located within a residential zoning district, which would not allow for the proposed 70-foot-tall sports field lighting.
In order to allow those lights to be put in, the district would first have to go through the State College borough.
That process would start, Poprik explained to the board, with a letter from the district to Borough Council, asking to consider amending ordinance to allow lighting up to 70 feet in an R3B zone, specific to the high school.
If the council decides to consider the amendment, it would then refer the matter to the Planning Commission for recommendation, and possibly a public hearing. The whole process could take about four months at a minimum, Poprik said.
Although Poprik said he didn’t have a good estimate of how much the entire lighting project would cost, the work needed to draft the text amendment and present it to Borough Council would be roughly $1,000.
The board did not get unanimous consent to move the South Track lighting item from information/discussion to an action item for a vote at its Sept. 12 meeting, and the motion was voted on on Monday.
The board’s action approved the drafting of the text amendment to send to the Borough Council, and to start of a design for the lighting project, to be paid for by capital funds.