Tacoma’s Annie Wright Schools plans night lights for new soccer field

Annie Wright Schools, whose historic campus is in the heart of Tacoma’s Stadium neighborhood district, plans a major upgrade to its athletic facilities and soccer field that includes artificial grass and 80-foot, high-intensity lights.

“We’ve had a soccer field there forever, but it needed to be usable more than it is currently,” said Mary Sigmen, the schools’ director of finance and operations. “School is held during the wettest time of year, and it gets muddy because it’s just grass.”

The field also would be used more if it had lights, school officials say — and those lights are the problem for at least one neighbor.

“I’m really concerned,” said Linda Miley, whose single-family home on North 10th Street is on a bluff on the west side of the soccer field. The deck along the back of her house provides expansive views of the soccer field all the way to Commencement Bay.

“I love the kids. I love seeing them, and hearing them, and I don’t mind the noise or traffic that comes with being near the school,” she said. “But if lights like that had been here in 2010 when I bought this house, I wouldn’t have bought the house.”

Miley’s home is one of a handful that would be affected by the lights. The News Tribune attempted twice on Wednesday to contact all of the homeowners who live directly next to the soccer field. Besides Miley, only Jim and M.J. Lockemy were home. The Lockemys, who live on North Park Drive, said the school is a great neighbor and they aren’t worried about the lights.

Christian Sullivan, head of schools, said Wednesday that he has met one-on-one with all the affected neighbors and understands their concerns over lighting and some increase in traffic. Most have been supportive, he said.

“To be a school with a competitive program, we have to practice and play games,” Sullivan said. “In the depths of winter, the field is hard to use after 4 p.m.

“We want to use it in the late afternoon and very early evening — I do stress the early evening part,” he said.

According to the school’s permit application, the four poles of new lights could be on until 10 p.m. But the chance of that is slim, Sullivan said.

“We had to put a time in there, but we are open to it being significantly earlier than that,” he said. “Kids are home doing homework and being with families even before that time. I think 8 o’clock would be fair.”

Because the school is in a residential zone, it has to apply for a conditional use permit from the city of Tacoma to install the lights. City code has rules to minimize “light trespass” — how much light can spill over into residential lots — and other types of light pollution. The code does not have a rule about how late such lights can be on.

The school also plans to replace the grass field with a synthetic turf field, renovate a play area, build a 8,775-square-foot auxiliary gym onto its existing Kemper Center and make general improvements around the campus to ramps and sidewalks.

School officials wouldn’t provide a cost estimate for the work, saying it’s too early in the planning stages. Construction wouldn’t begin until next summer at the earliest. Sullivan said they have no current plans for the field to be used by anyone other than Annie Wright students.