BY JEFF FALK
Lights! Cameras! Action?
The Lebanon Valley College athletic department will be shedding a new light on some of its sport programs this fall. But the Flying Dutchmen will ease into the use of their recently-found resource, choosing to employ their new illuminating power sparingly.
Due to some generous financial support, lighting was recenty added to LVC’s on-going restoration project at Arnold Field. But it appears those lights will be used more for practice than the actual staging of athletic competition, at least initially.
The initial plan for the improvements of Arnold Field called for the installation of artificial turf and the resurfacing of the track that encircles the football field. But because Lebanon Valley College’s fund-raising efforts bore so much fruit, the decision was made to include lights.
The entire rennovation project began in May and is expected to be completed by the start of classes in September.
“When we originally looked at the budget we set priorities based on the funds available,” said Lebanon Valley College athletic director Rick Beard. “Lighting wasn’t part of the original process. But we were able to raise some funds above our original estimates.”
Lebanon Valley College has never hosted an on-campus inter-collegiate event under the lights. Its first ever will be September 8 when the Flying Dutchmen field hockey team takes on Eastern on the turf of Arnold Field.
Currently, LVC has a total of three home field hockey game scheduled as night contests in 2012, and no home football games. Lebanon Valley’s men and women’s lacrosse teams are expected to play home contests under the lights in the spring of 2013, while the only other program that could conceivably host a competition there is the track and field.
“The lights themselves cost between $300,000 and $350,000,” said Beard. “It’s always a lot of money. We looked at it as an investment. This will also be used for intramurals and recreation. And we can have homecomg events out there.
“It provides a lot of flexibility,” Beard added. “It allows for the scheduling of home games during the week at 7 p.m., instead of 4 p.m. In the past we’ve had athletes who have missed practices because they have late-afternoon labs. They’ve got to go to labs.
“Installing cometitive-level lights will allow us to do some live streaming,” added Beard. “It can provide a place for soocer and track and field to train. And we’ll also have the ability to host high school events like PIAA lacrosse.”
The last time Lebanon Valley hosted a night football game was 1960, when the Flying Dutchmen welcomed Drexel to Lebanon High School’s Alumni Stadium. That string of years figures to reach 54, at least.
Because schedules are finalized for as long as two years into the future, it appears Lebanon Valley won’t be able to play a home football game under the lights until 2014.
“We’re going to play football under the lights at some point, but it won’t be this year,” said Beard. “It’s a scheduling issue. It’s not likely in 2013 either. We working on the possibility of 2014. Maybe F&M for the opening game. They’re already on the schedule for 2014. There’s nothing definite. We’re looking down the road.”
Playing college football on Saturday afternoons in the fall is a time-honored American tradition.
When the Flying Dutchmen do go under the lights, it figures to be on a Saturday evening. The only day of the week Beard ruled out for night football was Friday, the traditional playing time for high school football.
“I think football under the lights would be a unique college experience,” said Beard, himself a former gridirion star. “College football is played primarily during the day. But it could be a nice community event if done right, say like an opening game on a Thursday night. It adds a nice feel. It could be a special event.
“I think the kids do like it (playing under the lights),” Beard continued. “Obviously most high school players who come to us have played under the lights in high school. It would be nice to offer a combination of playing at night and during the day. But playing college football on Saturday afternoons is special.”
Lebanon Valley will play its initial home football game on Arnold Field’s new artificial turf on the Saturday afternoon of September 8, against Misericordia.
“I hope we can get everyone in the community involved,” Beard said. “We’ve got a facility to use and we want to use it. We hope to use it not only for our kids, but also to be able to do some things for the kids in the community as well.”