This would have been the ninth consecutive “Friday Night Lights” game at the campus. But, with some school district officials pushing for major area traffic and busing plans, PLHS principal Hans Becker made the decision to “pull the plug” on this year’s event.
“I wanted to make clear the reasons of the Homecoming game-time change,” Becker said. “The scheduled nighttime Homecoming game is a tradition we have had at Point Loma High for the past eight years. It has always been a wonderful celebration for our school.
“This year, however, there was greater attention to our game from many parties. Because of the environmental impact report currently taking place for our school’s modernization projects, many district personnel wanted to ensure a controlled atmosphere for the evening. As a result, many decisions were being considered that were not under the control of the school.”
Avoiding politics, it seems, was part of the consideration for Becker.
“I made a decision to move the game to the earlier time because I strongly believe that our students should not become the centerpiece of an event that was becoming more and more political,” he said. “I also want to make clear that the decision was not based on our neighbors’ concerns; rather they wanted us to have our evening game and came with a list of suggestions for the evening. I take responsibility for the decision and welcome any discussion with any students. I look forward to an excellent Homecoming game celebration.”
While the school’s Pete Ross Stadium has never had permanent lighting for night play, volunteers at the 88-year-old school began renting portable generators eight years ago to provide students, fans and the community the opportunity of a night game for Homecoming.
The annual night game proved a success, as returning alumni and others overflowed the stadium, renewing acquaintances, enjoying the halftime parade of student floats and cheering the Pointer football team on to victory while enjoying barbecued burgers and hot dogs.
This year’s event had been planned since last year and the lights had been reserved with the cost picked up by American West Bank.
Some nearby neighbors have been vocal about problems they said occur during night events at the school. One of these involves traffic and parking.
A suggestion made during a series of community forums to develop a site master plan was to close some streets near the campus, make others one-way during events and have buses shuttling fans to the game from nearby school campuses, using the Homecoming game as a test case.
Implementing such a plan, according to Becker, would involve lengthy planning and preparation involving the school district, city government and the police department.
PLHS students who were looking forward to the event staged a brief walkout from their fourth-period classes Oct. 23. While police officers were called to oversee traffic and safety issues, Becker spoke with students and the walkout ended quickly and without incident.
John Murphy, PLHS athletic director, said voluntary assemblies were planned during student lunch periods recently so that he and Becker could explain the situation, share some of the master plan issues and reinforce the importance of students always being good neighbors and show respect in the community.
“We always try the best we can to put on great events for our kids,” Murphy said.
He added that he and another school administrator have combed the neighborhood following previous night games and picked up any trash they could find.
“We are disappointed by the change of time for the game,” said head football coach Mike Hastings. “But I understand the logistics that caused this to be done. We are hoping that once the stadium-lighting issues are resolved, we can bring the excitement of nighttime Pointer football to the community on a regular basis.”
An environmental impact report is being completed on the effect of the proposed stadium lighting and other improvements. The results will be announced at a community forum on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the PLHS library.
The Point Loma community has split into opposing factions over plans of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) to install permanent stadium lights at PLHS.
Vocal neighbors first organized to fight the lighting plan under the banner of “Save Our Neighborhood.”
Later, a group of residents supporting the lighting plan appeared with its own banner of “Support Our Schools” as its slogan.
During the first two of four planned meetings to gather community input on a proposed master plan for the future of PLHS, angry residents, many who live near the school, have challenged the plans and added complaints of other issues, including parking, traffic, trash and public urination.