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Neighbors oppose football stadium at Edgewood High School, say it would disrupt nature of quiet neighborhood

November 25, 2018

Dozens of families living in the Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood say the character of their quiet, Near West Side neighborhood is being threatened by a proposal by Edgewood High School to upgrade its practice football field into a stadium capable of hosting home games.

Edgewood High School submitted its long-discussed proposal to Madison’s Plan Commission this month as a first formal step to expand its Irwin A. and Robert D. Goodman Athletic Complex. The $1 million plan would increase seating capacity to 1,200, add LED lighting and a sound system, and build in amenities including a ticket booth and concession stand, according to the proposal.

The Dudgeon-Monroe Neighborhood Association opposes the expansion, saying in a letter that it would disrupt the quiet nature of the neighborhood with light spillage and noise, not just from the public address system but also from the crowds that would gather.

“It’s just not really a compatible use for a residential neighborhood,” said Rachel Fields, vice president of the neighborhood association.

The school in its proposal said the expansion of the stadium is needed to bring home athletic games back to the high school, but the expansion is subject to City Council approval since it would be an amendment to the school’s 2014 master plan. The proposal will go before the Plan Commission Jan. 14 and is scheduled to go before the council Jan. 22.

Scheduling conflicts have prevented the school from calling one field home. Currently, Edgewood’s football and soccer teams play at various fields in the area — including Breitenbach Stadium in Middleton, Breese Stevens Field in Downtown Madison, Reddan Field in Verona and Lussier Stadium at La Follette High School.

It’s been two decades since a competition varsity football game has been played on the Edgewood High School campus. If “home” games were to actually be played at home, lighting would need to be installed, in part because the Badger Conference bylaws require that football games start at 7 p.m.

Jennifer Bergmann, whose son is a senior at Edgewood and whose daughter graduated from the school, said she hopes the improvements are made. Bergmann said it would give the school a better sense of community because students and supporters would have one place to gather for sports, which she sees as an important part of high school life.

“Sports brings leadership, it teaches time management and builds a sense of pride,” she said.

Bergmann said she believes many of the neighbors who are opposed to the plan are afraid the stadium would become too big. She said adding the lighting and other stadium necessities wouldn’t have too much of an impact because the games would be over around 9 p.m. for football and even earlier for other sports. The school’s enrollment is fewer than 500 students, which she said won’t draw huge crowds.

“It’s not going to be like Camp Randall,” Bergmann said, referring to the stadium where the University of Wisconsin Badgers football team plays.

The athletic complex on the Edgewood High School campus saw a major overhaul following approval of the 2014 master plan. Before the upgrades, the field was hard and shoddy, and the track’s asphalt and rubberized coating was crumbling — people weren’t allowed to run on it because of the dangers posed by cracks and holes.

Now the complex can accommodate football, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, ultimate Frisbee and track and field. The field’s improvements were approved for athletic practices and physical education courses, but Fields said that the school has already been hosting daytime competitions, which has disrupted neighbors. She said the noise levels from those games show that a full-fledged stadium would be more disruptive.

Gretchen Twietmeyer, who lives a block away from the field on West Lawn Avenue, said she’s already noticed increased noise and crowds in the neighborhood since the complex was built. She has lived in the home for 44 years, and she likes to spend as much time as possible gardening in her yard or eating meals on her porch. Crowds attending junior varsity and other daytime games have bumped up the noise level, drowning out the peace and quiet of nature.

“If they build the stadium, I’m not sure if I could continue living here,” Twietmeyer said.

Edgewood High School isn’t the only area high school not to have a football stadium on campus, Fields noted. East High School typically plays home games at Breese Stevens Field, and West High School plays at Memorial High School’s Mansfield Stadium.

“I don’t think it is an expectation that if you live next to a high school that you have to live next to a stadium,” Fields said.

Edgewood High School, which has met with the Dudgeon-Monroe and Vilas neighborhood associations several times since the proposal was first discussed in spring 2017, said improvements in lighting and sound technology would make the stadium less intrusive than neighbors may think. LED lights can light the field without spilling over and lighting the neighborhood homes, and the public address system can also be honed in directly toward the field and its bleachers.

Fields said the neighborhood hasn’t been convinced by the school’s assurances, and the neighborhood association said a survey of the neighborhood found about 68 percent of households believe the neighborhood would be harmed by the new stadium.

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