“In the end, the bigger number wins,” says Adrian, a resident in a Sugar House whose home borders the west stadium wall of the Westminster campus on 1200 East, “One day it was wooded, bustling with wildlife and native plants, the next day it was all gone.”
This is a tale of two sides, a small, liberal arts college wishing to keep its NCAA DII status by installing new stadium lights, and the closely bordering area between its stadium and a residential community. Cohabitation between big and little special interests can often be tricky.
Founded in 1875, Westminster College has come a long way since its first year with 27 students, moving to the current campus location in 1911 in Sugar House. Since, they have continued to expand and develop into a fully independent, privately funded, nondenominational liberal arts institution with selected graduate programs. And most recently, The Princeton Review named Westminster College as a Top Green College. Go Griffins!
Next to the current stadium, Adrian’s grandparents built their home 60 years ago, and eventually, this became her home. Back then many parts of the Westminster campus were still undeveloped and the forested area was once her path to school. Young Adrian would walk with her siblings and friends, they would place large rocks and cross the stream close by. As the college grew, the stadium has also evolved, and close-by neighbors have made accommodations and learned to live with all that came with it: The crowds, the players, the loud music during games and the lights. Adrian says, “Along with the college games, several of our local high schools would come to play on this field.” Although she pointed out that in Westminster’s history, these events did not take place late at night, so the disturbances were over at a reasonable time and a more serene neighborhood could then resume.
Love thy neighbor as thyself?
“You want your college experience to matter, with opportunities for social life; interactions with people you wouldn’t otherwise meet; and support for your academic, personal, and professional goals. We invite you to discover your passions, find your people, and build a home.”
—Westminster College homepage
In 2005, Dumke Field was transformed into a 2-level parking structure (and voice echo chamber) with the soccer/athletic field on top. Now 15 years later, the field is in need of upgrades, and according to Westminster, the NCAA expects its member institutions to provide quality facilities.
So this summer a big construction project came to the little woods between Westminster and Adrian’s home. It’s the twilight zone, an undeveloped dead-end that is city-owned and contained a walking path with mature trees and native landscapes (and lots of quail). All of which were quickly removed and installed were large concrete posts in preparation for a new addition to the stadium: big-league NCAA lights.
“There was very little that anyone looking on could do, I did my best to preserve some of my favorite trees and shrubs, and can yell pretty loud,” says Adrian, but nothing changed or was considered as she made several pleas with Westminister’s administrators and athletic director prior to and during construction. She says, “The athletic director mentioned that the new lights were a requirement to receive an NCAA affiliation.”
From Westminster College: “We are installing new lighting on Dumke Field in order to comply with NCAA lighting requirements. No games and no night games are currently scheduled due to the pandemic. When our student-athletes are able to resume competition, the college will hold games within Salt Lake City noise and light ordinances. With our neighbors in mind, the college selected lights that would be the least invasive while still meeting NCAA requirements.”
What did Westminster do to educate, work with the needs of the residents prior to construction? They shared, “We contacted neighbors prior to the first crews working on the area. The college notified them there would be activity and noise occurring behind the field for removal of the diseased trees and overgrowth. Neighbors were provided contact information and arranged an informal meeting (everyone was masked and distanced) at the site to hear concerns and explain the project. We communicated that neighbors will be notified again before the poles go in. The city fully permitted the project and did not require community notification or input.”
But the question remains: Even if the needs of a private entity exceed those of the surrounding neighborhood, and even if they are needing that status to continue to expand, was the way they went about it okay? Westminster seems to think so, but Adrian certainly doesn’t.
Why don’t you let President Beth Dobkin know how you feel? firstname.lastname@example.org