'Monday Night Football' on its way County agrees to buy lights for Sunset Park

club, players elated

August 09, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

A decade of lobbying has finally paid off for the Buccaneers Athletic Club.

The Pasadena-based youth sports organization has persuaded the County Council to appropriate about $150,000 in the 1997 capital budget to buy outdoor lights for Sunset Park, the home for six of the Buccaneers' football teams.

"I think this is great," said Steve Ward, club president. "You keep [trying], and good things happen."

A set of about six lights will be erected next spring, Ward said. It's something many of the football players say they are looking forward to.

"It's going to be like Monday Night Football," said linebacker Gary Alvey Jr., 12. "We'll feel like the pros."

Players said the opportunity to play under lights will be a welcome change at Sunset Park on Fort Smallwood Road.

Ward said when it got dark, he would move all six teams -- 150 boys -- to Rock Creek Park on Arundel Road, where four squads would practice on a baseball diamond. The other two teams would have to wait, usually finishing practice at 10 p.m.

"I heard some [complaints] from the parents," Ward said. "It was something we didn't want to do, but we couldn't fit everyone in at one time."

No lighting also hampered the club's fund-raising, Ward said. Most of the revenue stems from concession sales, and because he could only schedule two games a day, Ward said the club would raise only $300 each day.

By comparison, the club raised $2,300 during its annual season opener with all six teams playing from 8 a.m. to dusk.

"If you're only going to do two games, you make some hot dogs, you sell some soda, and that's it," said Ward, who also oversees the club's basketball, cheerleading, lacrosse and wrestling teams. "If you have a full day of games, you're going to do it all."

The Alvey youth, who plays on the 120-pound team, said the lack of lights forced his team to play as early as 9: 30 a.m.

"It was hard to wake up in the morning," he said. "Now, we'll just get ready to go to play at night."

County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond said he attended last year's Homecoming Day and felt compelled to find money for lights.

"With the lights, there's more involvement, and they can get more children to play," he said. "Anything we can do to get the children involved, I'll do it."

The lights will allow the teams to play games anytime they want, said 13-year-old Tim Thompson, a tackle on the 120-pound squad.

"If you have three games, you usually had to play at 10 in the morning," he said. "If we have lights, we can start at 4 in the afternoon because we don't have to worry about not being able to see the ball."

And playing night football is more exciting, said Chris Hudson.

"It's a lot cooler at night, and it's a lot more fun," said the 120-pound running back.

Ward said the chance to play at night is what players dreams of.

"Every kid grew up watching Monday Night Football, and we want all of the kids to experience that," he said. "That's an intangible that every kid will remember."

Pub Date: 8/09/96

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