Early afternoon is the best time for college athletes due to their lives outside of sports. However, for the outdoor sports at Knox, it’s very difficult to plan around the hours of daylight. The lack of lighting on the athletic fields makes it impossible for late-afternoon or nighttime uses of the fields. For these teams, it’s a struggle every season and an inconvenience. Without artificial light on any of Knox’s outdoor athletic complexes, time frames are limited for games and practices
If you want to catch a football game on a given Saturday, you can bet that showing up at the Knosher Bowl at 1:00 p.m. will guarantee that you won’t miss a thing. And if you’re more of a men’s soccer fan, it’d be unusual to attend a home game that’s scheduled for any time other than 3 or 3:30 p.m.
For fall varsity athletic programs at Knox like football, soccer, tennis and cross country Ñ as well as baseball and softball in the spring Ñ playing time restrictions are largely due to the lack of natural light later in the evenings. While scheduling for opposing colleges is also a determinant, late fall and early spring routinely usher in a wave of less daylight.
The current lack of lights can be a particular inconvenience for practices. Junior Malik Hamilton, a starting wide receiver for Knox football, says that while the coaching staff typically provides portable lights during 6:30 a.m. practices in the fall, the lights aren’t enough to accomodate the size of the program, or even the entire size of the field.
“We actually bring in lights, but [they only light up] one half of the field . . . [Practice] is not as productive as it is during the start of the season when we have a lot of light and we can use the entire field. We still get things done, but it’s not as productive,” Hamilton said.
The lack of light is also a consistent obstacle for the tennis team, whose practices are in the afternoons and evenings. Senior Miranda Corbett of the women’s tennis team says that the 4 to 6 p.m. timeframe for fall practices is not conducive to a high quality practice.
“If people come late to practice because they’re in class, they can’t stay late because it gets dark and so then if someone has a consistent issue [with being late] they have to make it up some time during the day,” Corbett said. “But more than that, practice can only realistically be [between 4 and 6]. That’s something that’s been an issue all four years I’ve been here.”
Having no lights has become a detriment to the continuity of matches as well. Corbett describes a particular incident from last fall in which an ongoing match against Monmouth College was delayed mid-way through due to lack of visibility on the courts.
“We started the match at 4:30 p.m.,” Corbett said. “And by the time it was 7 p.m., the sun had basically set because it was pretty late into fall and before daylight saving time.”
Corbett says that while the match was able to be made up at a later point, the inconvenience still incurred frustration from the team.
“It was too dark to see the ball anymore,” Corbett said. “And it wasn’t just one person left on court, it was about five people and only six people play at a time, so basically everyone was still on court . . . We [were able to] make it up, but everyone had to stop in the middle of their matches.”
Students, coaches, and athletic department faculty members alike have consistently voiced their dissatisfaction with the lack of stadium lighting on the outdoor fields and courts here at Knox. This complaint is just as consistently met with the same explanation from Director of Facilities Services Scott Maust: a lack of funding.
“Typically, funding for something like this comes from potential donors that have an interest in a facility like that,” Maust said. “There is some real interest [in getting lights for the complexes] . . . We’ve put a couple of the fields in the capital projects budget . . . And I really think the soccer field would probably be the first one [to get lights].”
It is expected that in the coming year, Jorge Prats field will be completely resurfaced with turf, a project that is currently being assessed by Facilities Services.
Maust estimates that a set of lights for each complex, including the soccer field, would cost up to $500,000 for each individual field, a very large sum of money for Knox to provide.
“One of the original proposals [for Jorge Prats field] was to add lights,” Maust explained. “The lights add about $300,000 and [the donors] just didn’t have the funding at that time to put the lights up, so they scaled that back and said ‘let’s get the turf in so we can play on the turf and then we’ll work on getting the funding for the lights.’”
Although there is no explicit plan in motion to install lights at Jorge Prats, Maust says that the redesign of the field does accommodate the potential installation of lights at a future time.
“I think some of the philosophy on this is: ‘let’s show them that we’ve got a really nice facility, and our next need is lights,’” Maust said. “We are making sure that in the design of it, that we’re able to add the lights later. If we ever get the funding, we’ll get them.”