T. C. Williams' Stadium Lights

Nan's notes


Five families who live in the Seminary Civic Association have sued the City in the Alexandria Circuit Court over the abolition of Condition 85 of the DSUP for T. C. Williams High School, which promised lights would not be put on this field. All Alexandria judges recused themselves, so a Loudon judge will preside.
Over SHA's objections, City Council adopted a text amendment to put 80-foot light poles in 34 schools/parks and 18 dog parks. The text of the amendment was NOT available for review even the day before the vote (Friday, 12 Oct). The City claims these lights are only for athletic complexes (no definition) and added a lot of other vague terminology; "the amendment does not affect existing facilities, nor does it allow such a facility or lighting unless it is already a permitted use in the underlying zoning district." Councilman Paul Smedberg added a friendly amendment to the text during Council deliberations. The ACPS heralded the text amendment as lights on the stadium at T. C. Williams High School. It may have unintended consequences to all neighborhoods in the City.
Since lights were NOT allowed at the T. C. stadium for over 40 years, City Council had to abrogate Condition 85 of the DSUP for T. C. Williams High School. Council. It then went on to approve two new Conditions 131 and 132 that restricted the lighting and sound system to use only by the ACPS for athletic and academic events. ACPS cannot rent the lights and sound system to other groups. Guess we must spend a couple of million dollars to put in the lights and sound system before we know if they work properly within legal limits and, if not, they cannot be used. They must meet zoning requirements for light spillage onto private property and the City's noise regulations. Staff claims they will but independent studies paid for by the residents of Bishop Lane indicate they cannot; crowd noise from Saturday afternoon football games now violates the noise regulations. A new sound
Plans for the new football stadium, which includes lighting for the field, are expected to be filed with the City in September. Residents who oppose the lights are represented by a law firm in DC.
Nan recommends reading two Alexandria Times articles: A school cook's forgotten civil rights stand by Jim Mcelhatton and the editorial Should Alexandria's high school bear the name 'T.C. Williams?'

A recent poll about lighting the stadium field showed 53% in favor and 47% against lights. There was a flurry of last minute inputs from sports clubs outside of SHA which greatly influenced the final tally. The plan is to rent it nightly to sports clubs; i.e. adult soccer teams.

Excerpt from the article that has great photos: In the fall of 1958, longtime Alexandria schools superintendent Thomas Chambliss "T.C." Williams took the unusual step of firing a black school cafeteria worker who by all accounts did a stellar job.

The cook, Blois Hundley, 42, a mother of eight, had just joined in a federal civil rights lawsuit to force Alexandria schools to let her children attend a whites-only school. To Williams, this was an unforgivable, fireable offense. He called Hundley's participation in the civil rights lawsuit "a slap in the face". Hundley never worked for Alexandria's public school system again.

Sixty years later, the name T.C. Williams is world famous - not just for the high school named after him on King Street, but for the idealized story of integration made famous by Hollywood in the movie "Remember the Titans". By contrast, the name Blois Hundley is all but forgotten.

About 30 neighbors attended a community meeting about the new stadium planned for T. C. William High School. It was led by a School Board representative and a consultant. The school board members present were not allowed to talk. After a review of the most recent design for the stadium—lights, sound system, and refreshment stand—neighbors expressed their continuing frustrations with the design. They announced that they are now represented by a DC law firm, pro bono, which is looking into how their civil rights are being violated.
The ACPS has scheduled public meetings about the plans for the T. C. Williams stadium but did not allow SHA residents to say their reasons for opposing having lights on the stadium on November 27, 2017. SHA residents were told they will have a separate "make-up" meeting where they can voice their opposition at 7 pm on February 28 at the Addison Building of the Virginia Theological Seminary. The final public ACPS meeting about the stadium is on March 12 at 6pm at Minnie Howard. Not sure if SHA residents can speak.
The plan for the TCW stadium is with the Planning Commission. No word on the cost; likely in the $5 million range.
The SHA Board of Directors voted to financially support Area 1 and 2 residents in their efforts that the new TC Williams Stadium meet the requirements of the DSUP and not include stadium lights on the field.
The School Board allocated $320,000 in its FY2016 budget for studying improvements to the T. C. Williams stadium.
The School Board found $1.25 Million for the T. C. Williams stadium but that amount does not include the cost of the new field or the lights: $320,000 for concept and design, $300,000 for concession stands and ticket booth, $75,000 for press box, $250,000 for visitors' bleachers (no space), $250,000 for landscaping, $50,000 annual contract to maintain the grounds.
The SHA Board of Directors remains opposed to efforts to install lights on the football stadium at T. C. Williams High School (TCW). Since the 1960s, the City's Mayors and Members of City Council have promised us verbally and through zoning restrictions - specifically Condition #85 of the school's DSUP - that no lights would be erected on this field, which is located 20' from some single family homes. Nevertheless, the School Board spent funds to study the feasibility of installing lights on the stadium.
SHA Board Members continue to support Condition #85, which became a written agreement in 2003 when the City wanted to expand the size of TCW. In the 2003 DSUP for the larger building, Condition #85 reads: "No permanent stadium lighting shall be installed at the School stadium or on any other athletic fields, including the proposed new practice field". In 2013, this condition was amended with the approval of the neighbors and SHA to allow for lights on six new tennis courts that were supposed to be built last spring. Condition #85 now reads: "No permanent stadium lighting shall be installed at the School stadium or on any other athletic fields except as to allow for the lighted tennis courts proposed under the DSUP2013-0014 submission".

SHA residents spoke at the School Board meeting about the problems and flaws with the feasibility study done by Kimley-Horn for putting lights on the football field at TCW. Nevertheless, the School Board approved further study of the proposal in a vote of 8-1 with Pat Hennig voting against pursuing this option. According to the feasibility study:

  • The cost for the lights is now estimated to be about $4.5 million. [Note: In September, Kimley-Horn estimated the cost of the lights alone between $650,000 and $750,000 and with other associated items about a $1 million.]
  • Lights will be on six 90' poles, which violates the height limit on school buildings.
  • Excessive light from the field will spill onto at least two private properties in violation of zoning standards.
  • The feasibility and cost of addition lights on the bleachers and concession stand is unknown.
  • The amount of light generated by additional lighting needed is unknown.
School Board member Christopher Lewis led a community meeting during which citizens discussed the feasibility study done by Kimley-Horn for putting lights on the football field at TCW.
During a one-hour public meeting with the School Board, several members of SHA explained the reasons for Condition #85 of the DSUP for TCW that prohibits lights on the football stadium. School Board members claimed ignorance of the history of the historic community decimated by the construction of the school and ignorance of the existing agreements between us and the City that this particular field would not have lights.
The City has documented that the ACPS has failed to implement the required landscaping at TCW, but no plan or timeframe for implementation is available as of October 2014.
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