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Commission looks at sights, sounds of MHS field

Milwaukie planning commission OKs new lights for football field

Trisha Keller said she and her children love standing on their porch at their apartment behind Milwaukie High School and watching the football games during the fall. It's tradition, it's pride, she said, and that overcomes the bright lights and booming loudspeaker emanating from the field.

'When I moved into my apartment building I knew exactly where I was moving,' she told Milwaukie's Planning Commission last week.

About two dozen people showed up at the meeting to support improvements to the school's football and soccer field, which the commission passed. While the issue being addressed was lighting, sound was brought up as well.

The school district plans to replace the six lights it has there now, the tallest of which is 85 feet high, with four new lights; two at 70 feet and two at 80 feet. The design team had studied options for the height of poles from 50 feet on up based on concerns from the neighborhood association.

They decided that the 70 and 80 foot option was optimal, both for illuminating the field for players and spectators and for reducing light spillover into the neighborhood.

'We certainly think the 70/80 option is the way to go,' said Gary Kryszak, of Capital Projects Management, representing the school district. 'We are concerned with the quality of the facilities across the district but we are also concerned with the neighborhood, so we think this is a good compromise.'

Mike Butts, with the design team, also talked about the increased efficiency of the new lights. The current lights are just big bulbs, and they throw light all over the place, he said. But the new bulbs have lots of little refractors built in so the light is more guided and specific to the field.

The city planning staff agreed that those were the best options.

'No light spill is not realistic, in our opinion,' said Milwaukie Assistant Planner Brett Kelver. 'And no complaints have been received in the past regarding light spill.'

The city also proposed the idea of creating a 'vegetative wall' between the field and the adjacent homes, possibly of Evergreen trees, to further reduce the light, compromises that satisfied the neighborhood association.

'I think generally we were OK with the improvements,' said Historic Downtown Neighborhood chair Dion Shephard. 'I think they came up with a good compromise. They came up with planting trees along the property lines and trees along Washington Street. I think overall they were pretty supportive of what concerns we had and addressing those.'

The North Clackamas Parks and Recreation District would also like to see an updated field in hopes that it would free up some of its space for community activities.

'There's a need for those facilities, and that's why we're involved,' said Joe Loomis, representing the district. 'What we're hoping is that the community use time at Alder Creek become all community use time.'

School wants

equal facilities

But for the many parents, administrators and others associated with the high school that night, the larger issue was equality with other schools in the area.

'The citizens of Milwaukie did vote for this bond measure and part of that measure was the parity of our school with other schools in the district,' said Heather Noreen. 'Our students do need improvements to that school.'

Roberto Aguilar, a counselor and the varsity soccer coach at the school, talked about the updated gym and how much pride that instilled in students. He said when other teams come to play there, they comment on how unique and nice it is.

'I'm looking forward to being at a home field instead of being at Alder Creek for most of our soccer games,' he said.

And Dan Warner, a parent, said it could help attract people to the district.

'When people are coming to find a home, what are you looking at,' he said. 'You want to know that your kid is going to be able to compete and is not going to feel inferior to other school districts, and I feel that that's something our students have. Bring that value, make our community a place where people want to play.'

Sound system

antiquated

Some of the Planning Commission members also questioned the extent of noise from the field, and the school district said they'd like to deal with that as well.

'What we have right now is one antiquated speaker that is not necessarily aimed in the best way,' said Milwaukie principal Kelly Carlisle. The speaker is pointed toward the neighborhood, and when people can't hear, the only option is to turn it up.

The school is looking at an updated system, though, that would reduce noise spillover into the neighborhood, said Milwaukie Athletic Director Shirley Huyett.

'Our intention is to turn those away from the neighborhood: pointed east toward the field, and, under the grandstands, pointed straight down so people could hear.