Carroll trustees approve ballfield lights at packed meeting

SOUTHLAKE -- Southlake Carroll trustees approved installing lights at the baseball and softball fields located at Carroll Senior High with a unanimous vote that took place shortly after midnight.

The light installation would come with several stipulations aimed at protecting the properties of nearby homeowners who worry lights will devalue their properties. Among the stipulations are that use of the fields during the night be restricted to UIL activities. Other guidelines include capping usage to a number of games, getting additional landscaping to screen the homes from the fields, mitigating the noise levels and shutting the outfield lights off when games finish.

"The next step in the process is the city process, which hasn't even begun," School Board President Read Ballew told people in the audience. "It is not a done deal. I think everyone should be aware of that."

About 200 people attended a Southlake Carroll school board meeting Monday at which trustees were expected to vote on where to install lights for Carroll baseball and softball fields.

Trustees discussed the issue until shortly after midnight as several supporters and critics of the Carroll Senior High School site waited.

Some people living near Carroll Senior High School don't want lighted fields there, saying that would harm their property values and quality of life.

Supporters of Dragon baseball and softball players say the lack of lights means that high school athletes must play all games during daylight and typically have to miss some classes for games.

Additionally, the players are missing the home game experience, they said.

"Next stop is with the city," said Doug Turlip, a homeowner.

Alexa Wimberly, a shortstop with the Lady Dragons, was happy with the district vote because it brings her closer to playing under lights.

"I'm ecstatic," she said, adding that she plans to speak at a city of Southlake meeting public comment session tonight.

Trustees have studied several possibilities, including spending more than $4.3 million for a new facility on 5 acres near Dragon Stadium.

Other possibilities include:

Installing lights that neighbors oppose at baseball and softball fields at Carroll Senior High School, $331,000.

Installing lights and upgrading baseball and softball fields at Carroll High School, $1.3 million to $2 million.

Forming a partnership with the city of Southlake to let the teams use existing and future fields at city parks.

Auditorium seats at Johnson Elementary School, 1301 N. Carroll Ave., started filling up with residents -- many wearing red shirts in support of the homeowners from Park Place and Stone Lakes residential neighborhoods -- about 4:30 p.m. Supporters of baseball and softball players began arriving about 5 p.m., many wearing green in support of the student athletes. At least 32 softball players attended and dozens of baseball players.

About 15 people spoke during a comment period that lasted about 50 minutes.

Among speakers for the Carroll Senior High School site were baseball and softball players. About 10 homeowners spoke representing 389 homes in the Stone Lake and Park Place residential areas.

The residents said that in past discussions with city and school leaders, they believed they had been promised no lights. One resident played a tape of a former school official who stressed that lights would not be installed.

"Please be a good neighbor," urged Lisa Vassios, who lives at 1410 Park Place, behind the school.

She opposes the lights for a number of reasons, she said, including glare, noise pollution and after-game disturbances.

"We are not saying we are against lights," Vassios said while trustees were in executive session. "We are against the location of the lights."

Vassios and other homeowners said they feel blindsided by the school district's actions. They learned the lights were on a school board agenda just days before a November meeting where they were to be discussed.

Supporters of lights at the Carroll Senior High fields started an online petition directed at Southlake city leaders that called for the city to approve any future action related to installing lights at the fields.

"I'd really like to have the lights at the Senior High," Chris Altimont, a baseball player who is a senior, told trustees.

Board President Read Ballew said the board reviewed some aspects of the issue in executive session. Last week, Ballew said the board would review questions relating to the federal Title IX laws that protect female students from discrimination.

Parents of softball players have said they are worried that options outside the Carroll Senior High location won't result in equity in sports for female athletes.

"The city options are not equal facilities," said Jamie Wimberly, adding that softball players don't play on a regulation size field and the school district isn't able to keep concession funds.

Homeowners are also circulating a petition.

The lights were part of a discussion in November that explored how to spend money left over from the 2009 bond issue.

Diane Smith, 817- 390-7675

Twitter: @dianeasmith1