The Hanover Planning Board has approved the installation of stadium lights at Memorial Field this summer, which will allow the Dartmouth football team to play into the evening during both games and practices. This upgrade will make Memorial Field Dartmouth’s second lighted playing surface, as Sculley-Fahey Field which hosts men’s and women’s lacrosse and soccer games has had lights since it opened in Winter 2000.
Seven light towers are expected to be installed around the stadium. They will be configured to maximize lighting on the field and minimize the lights’ impact on the surrounding town of Hanover. While these changes are expected to take place during summer practice, the coaching staff does not think they will impact the team’s ability to practice during the preseason.
“Since it’s not on the surface itself, the impact on practice for my guys is going to be minimal,” head coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said.
The installation of lights has been in the works for the past few years and came down to a final vote by the Hanover Planning Board on Tuesday, April 5. The town had to approve the light fixtures to make sure they followed Hanover zoning regulations and requirements.
“It has been something we’ve been speaking about for years,” Teevens said. “And when it came to the final vote I actually attended the meeting it was exciting to hear that it was going to go forward because I think it will have a tremendous impact on the football program.”
Chris Jenny ’77 and his wife Andi Jenny provided the majority of the funding for the project, while other contributions were made through the Friends of Dartmouth Football.
The new addition will be helpful for the development of the football team, which had its first winning season in 13 years in 2010, going 6-4.
“We’re certainly appreciative of the administration and [College President Jim Yong Kim] for being so supportive,” Teevens said. “It sends a good message to prospective student athletes as well as our athletes here.”
Quarterback Conner Kempe ’12 said the team was excited about the new lights.
“I think everybody was pretty happy,” he said. “It is a pretty cool thing to play on the field to begin with. For us to have [lights] is even better.”
Due to the lack of lighting, the team previously had to schedule games relatively early in the day, which hurt attendance figures. In the 2010 season, the kickoff time for every home game was either at noon or 1:30 p.m., forcing students who wished to watch to get up earlier than they would normally on a Saturday.
“Mainly I was just excited, since the main issue with getting students out to games has been getting them out so early on Saturday,” D-Block president Freddie Fletcher ’14 said. D-Block is a student organization that promotes attendance at Dartmouth sporting events.
In addition to allowing students to sleep in on Saturday mornings, D-Block hopes that later kick-offs will help increase student involvement by taking advantage of the night environment. Fletcher said he hopes to organize a blackout night game during which everyone in the student section would wear black.
Kempe said playing at night would bring much larger crowds, and that playing under lights would bring back memories for many of the players who dominated in their high school leagues.
“It brings me back to high school,” he said. “It really does. I played under lights nearly every single game. To have that back, that will add an extra little thing to bring people in. I do think it will help get crowds.”
Members of the team said they do not think there will be much of an adjustment to playing under the lights.
“They do a good job as far as putting the lights where they’re not going to be a problem,” Kempe said. “The lacrosse lights [at Sculley-Fahey] are pretty low, as the ball is never really up in the air. In football, they have to raise the lights up a little bit more.”