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Official: Lights for schools’ baseball fields ‘not on agenda’

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Columbus North’s first season at its new baseball field is barely half over and the Bull Dogs already have had two games suspended because of darkness.

But lighting North’s baseball field at Southside Elementary and Columbus East’s field at its high school isn’t likely to happen anytime soon.

“At this time, it’s not even on the agenda,” said Bill Jensen, director of secondary education for Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. “Our main concern right now is to make sure we’re getting equal facilities with the softball.”

North’s softball team is getting a new facility at Southside next year, although it won’t have lights, either. Because of Title IX, the corporation would likely need to light the schools’ softball fields if it put in lights at the baseball fields.

“That’s a high-dollar item when you talk about several fields,” East athletics director Bob Gaddis said.

“When you talk about four, six, eight fields (including junior varsity fields), you’re talking about a lot of money.”

North athletics director Jeff Hester said it cost $75,000 to install lights on the baseball field at his previous school, Heritage Christian. He said since a softball field is smaller, lighting that field would cost about $55,000 to $60,000.

The North and East softball teams and the East baseball team have been able to finish all of their home games before dark the past couple of seasons. North’s baseball team had been playing on a field at Clifty Park, which did have lights.

“I can remember maybe one time in the last four or five years we had to call a game because of darkness,” Gaddis said. “It was probably an extended (extra-inning) game.”

North hasn’t been as fortunate since moving into its new digs at Southside. The Bull Dogs’ April 10 season-opener against Fishers ended in a tie, and the April 22 game against Bloomington North had to be completed a week later because darkness had set in.

“This seems to be kind of an unusual year,” Jensen said. “We’ve not had those problems in the past. This is my 16th year, and this year seems to be a real anomaly as far as what North has faced.”

Some of the schools North plays, including Bloomington North and Bloomington South, haven’t had access to buses until drivers have returned from delivering students from school. Because of that, the Bull Dogs haven’t been able to start some home games, including the Bloomington North contest, until after 6 p.m.

“Originally, we didn’t think when we switched to Daylight Savings, we didn’t think it would be a problem,” Hester said. “Some of the schools we’ve been playing, have had transportation cuts, and as a result, teams weren’t able to get a bus as early as they once did, so they weren’t able to get there as early as normal. So we had to start later than we wanted to. That’s what we’ve been dealing with lately.

“It’s challenging at times because it costs the athletic department more money because we have to pay for officials, and we don’t take gate (the second time),” he said. “We don’t charge fans twice.”

Most of East’s home baseball and softball games begin at 5 or 5:30 p.m.

“It wasn’t a problem until this year with the bad weather and a lot of the cloud cover we’ve had,” Gaddis said. “Normally, if you get a ballgame started around 5 or 5:30 (p.m.) with Daylight Saving Time, you don’t have any issues.”

Jensen noted that the district has invested a great deal in facilities for North and East.

“It’s always that tight balance,” Jensen said. “Last year, we did the football field at North, and we’re doing the same thing with East and we invested a lot in the baseball field for North. We’re making sure North has a quality softball field. We want to have the same quality of facilities as the schools we play.”

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