While the saga of the installation of lights at Augusta Preparatory Day School’s Blanchard Field is nearing its conclusion, there is only a small chance they will be in place for any games in the 2011-2012 school year.
The 80- to 90-foot poles have been ordered and are expected to arrive in about a month. Because the school does not want installation to interfere with students during school, the lights would not be erected until Masters Week (April 1-8) when school is not in session. If all goes well, they might be available for soccer games on April 10 or 12.
If nothing else, the lights should be ready to go for the Cavaliers’ 2012 football season.
“When it’s all done, we should have them for next fall, and they’re more critical for that,” said Tom Holodak, Augusta Prep athletic director.
After receiving permission to go ahead with the lights, the schedule called to have the lights up when the students were away on Christmas break. The project ran into a minor problem with the planned placement of one of the four light poles, which needed to be moved 10 feet from its original location.
“We ran into a few delays. There was some red tape on our end, but in a nutshell, the lights have been ordered,” Holodak said.
Initially it appeared that lights on the field would be a no-go. On May 17, 2011, the Columbia County Commission, with pressure from neighbors in the nearby Springlakes subdivision, denied the school’s rezoning proposal to erect lights and expand the stadium. In August, however, the board approved a modified plan after a compromise was reached between the school and the Springlakes homeowners association.
Part of the accord involved creating a buffer between the field and the nearby homes. According to Holodak, there is a three-phase plan, and the planting of trees as a buffer, which is part of phase one, has been completed. Drainage issues also have been addressed, and the lights would complete that phase.
The timeline for the future phases depends on when money becomes available. Phase two would increase stadium seating and the construction of a press box. Phase three would consist of a structure to block the back side of the bleachers from the main campus.
“I think everything will eventually come about, but we have to be patient. We’re in a recession and things are tight,” Holodak said.
The Cavs started playing football in 2009 and had just one game at home last season, on a Saturday afternoon. As part of the compromise, games will not start until after 7:30 p.m. and lights will be turned off at 10:30, barring unforeseen circumstances.