High school girls in braids and ponytails stepped off the diamond and into City Hall on Tuesday evening, creating a turnout unusual for a University Park Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
In 2011, the commission first heard about a potential Title IX violation at Highland Park ISD due to the lack of lighting on the softball field; the girls aren’t able to play as many games as the baseball team because they can’t play at night. At the time, the commission voted not to pass the issue along to the City Council. Two years later, the problem hasn’t disappeared.
“We’re a team that is striving to make it to the playoffs like any high school team,” varsity catcher Rennie Orr said. “But it seems like we are at a great disadvantage.”
Playing only daytime games limits the girls’ schedule, which they feel results in lower turnout among fans. It also means they have to miss more class time to play earlier, which is especially difficult for older girls in AP classes.
Nearly a dozen teammates and parents spoke on equality and advancement for the girls’ team, but many more filled the seats to show their support. Those in favor of lighting weren’t the only ones speaking up, though.
“My husband and I purchased [our] property in 1998, and at that point it was residential across the street,” said Christie Haggard, who lives across Druid Lane from the softball field and tennis court. “We were assured by city staff that the facilities would not be lighted.”
Musco Sports Lighting, the company that would provide the equipment, gave a presentation on the progress in reducing glare from sports lights. Some younger audience members didn’t think “spill light” onto neighboring properties would be a problem.
“Our house has a lot of windows, and my room is right off the front, so if anything, I would experience the lights the most,” said rising sophomore Grayson Rutherford, who lives across Westchester Drive from Highlander Stadium. “I’ve never had a problem with it.”
Of course, Ursuline’s recent success on a similar issue with the Dallas City Council was on the minds of many attendees.
“We are not Ursuline complainers,” said Morton Newman, who owns property near the field. “The front of my house … is 80 feet and a few inches from the nearest proposed pole.”
Ultimately, the commission decided there were too many options to weigh, so they shouldn’t rush a decision. They deferred voting until their next meeting on July 9.