Home field advantage has always been important to athletes, but for decades the student-athletes of Carmel High School have been limited to having that advantage in daylight only. For night home games they ride a bus to someone else’s turf. That could change under a proposal by the Carmel Unified School District so that athletes of different sports can play on their own field.
The issue has been discussed by CUSD for about five years, becoming more relevant after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 328 in 2019, requiring later school starts, including 8:30am for high schools, by July 1, 2022. Carmel High will comply for the 2022-23 school year.
A later start time will be a challenge during shorter winter days. Even with the current 7am start time, school officials say they bus teams off-campus for practice in winter. “We have to bus them and you add the time of busing into the equation and they virtually have no practice time in the winter,” says Dan Paul, director of facilities and transportation at CUSD.
Beyond practices, being able to play on their home field would make it easier for people to attend and have a positive impact on the community, says Hannah Filly, a senior multi-sport athlete. “Night games create a deeper sense of spirit,” she says.
That spirit doesn’t extend to all neighbors, including John Dillard, a long-time resident who worries about traffic from events endangering children or elderly people. If there are events with thousands attending “it really makes for a chaotic entry and exit through the neighborhood,” Dillard says. He wants the district to look for other alternatives.
Glare and parking issues were top concerns of residents who submitted written comments between Aug. 13 – Sept. 27 for the proposal’s draft environmental impact report. Paul says those lights would have less glare than 14-year-old lights used for the school’s pool and the proposal includes adding about 20 parking spaces.
The Monterey Peninsula Unified School District is facing a lawsuit to overturn its football field lighting project at Monterey High School, alleging the district didn’t comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. Paul says Carmel’s project is at a smaller scale.
The district will host a listening session on Oct. 5 at 6pm at Carmel High Auditorium to get feedback and hear concerns about the proposal. It will come back to the board in December.
The story was updated to include the date of the meeting.