Light it up?

The debate whether or not to install lights onto Arnold Field continues into the 2020-21 school year.

Arnold Field, named after General Henry Harley “Hap” Arnold in 1950, has remained without permanent lights for its entire existence. | Graphic by Emmi Wu ’23/Staff

Driving around LM nowadays means seeing signs debating whether or not lights should be built on Arnold Field. While there is opposition to the idea, the mystic of the high school “Friday Night Lights” game may soon become a reality for LM students. The district has been trying to execute a plan for the addition of lights for safe participation in sports after daylight since the end of 2019. But a separate goal behind installing lights onto Arnold Field is to assist in moving back high school start time as it would provide additional flexibility for scheduling after-school athletics and other activities. The overall idea, however, is becoming more and more polarizing throughout LM.

Proposals to delay school start times for LMSD high schoolers must also consider the logistics of sports and other after-school activities. Amy Buckman, the LMSD Director of School and Community Relations, says that in response to a new start time plan, “the Lower Merion School Board of Directors approved the submission of an application to the Township to install lighting on Arnold Field.” While no final decisions or timelines for installation have been formally announced, it is essential to any consideration of a fully-implemented later school start time. Buckman notes: “the installation of lights will allow teams to use the field for games and practices later on fall evenings, which will be necessary if high schools have a later start time.”

In adding lighting to Arnold Field, LM students could possibly gain an extra hour of sleep, as it would cover one of the areas preventing a switch in start times. By constructing lights on Arnold Field, scheduling games will not be confined to the daylight hours to avoid evening darkness. As a result of this added flexibility, sports games and practices could then be postponed to later times. The possibility of lights is popular among many students, including Sarem Khan ’24, who also happens to live near Arnold Field. He believes, “teams can practice and host games on the turf more often since there will be a longer period of time in which the field can be used since they won’t have to worry about the sun going down.” When playing sports for LM in the late fall, every practice feels like a race against the closing hours of daylight. If lights are installed onto Arnold Field, this would mean later times for going to bed, waking up the next morning, and, ultimately, catching the bus to head off to school.

And while this would mean that certain sports teams could be able to play games at night, not all are in favor of the proposal. Around many parts of LM—particularly the area close to the field itself—there are numerous signs that all read, “NO lights on Arnold Field.” For residents, the installation of lights could lead to students hanging around LM at later hours, an idea not that favorable to many. This apparent loitering could also cause heightened noise during those later hours.

However, not every resident who lives in this area is concerned about that possibility, and some are certainly in favor of an installation. Many see the overall benefits for both LM’s athletic programs and the overall LM student population in installing these lights. In fact, there are almost an equal number of signs throughout LM (and even near Arnold Field) that plead, “Let Lower Merion High School Athletes Shine.” And while debate could continue for months — or even years — into the future, one fact remains abundantly clear: an installation of lights onto Arnold Field will ultimately result in a great number of changes for both LM and the community at-large.