Wilmette, Community

Loyola lights up Hoerster Field — and gets a W on opening night

Ramblers girls soccer beats Fenwick in historic night game

It was a historic night for Loyola Academy on May 2 as Ramblers student-athletes competed for the first time under permanent lights in their home stadium.

Loyola girls soccer team got the honors and dropped Fenwick 2-1 to start a new era of Ramblers athletics on a winning note. It was the first game with the newly installed lights over Hoerster Field at Sachs Stadium, an event made possible by a school fundraising campaign and local-government approval in late 2023.

According to a release from the school, the decision to illuminate the field was part of the school’s plan to create a sense of togetherness and belonging among students, parents, friends and neighbors.

The evening contest doubled as senior night for Ramblers girls soccer, which not only celebrated its senior class but also a victory that clinched a conference championship.

“It was an amazing experience,” Ramblers soccer coach Shannon Hartinger said. “There has been a lot of talk about the lights at Loyola and the girls were really excited to have that opportunity. … We couldn’t have asked for a better night for us.”

Hartinger’s team, and other Loyola teams like lacrosse, usually play home night games at the school’s Munz Campus in Glenview. She said the on-campus location is an upgrade that the whole Loyola community can enjoy.

“For us and Loyola it’s a great opportunity to be able to compete in your home stadium under the lights,” she said. “There’s something to be said about lights at home, no matter what the sport is. … It feels like you’re part of more of a school community. “

According to a schedule released May 10, the Loyola Academy football team has two Friday night games scheduled: versus St. Francis at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 13 and versus Brother Rice at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 20. Loyola does not yet have a game schedule in Week 2, and with just three home games (and 5 road games) on the schedule thus far, the Ramblers may be looking for a home opponent for Sept. 6.

How we got here

As previously reported by The Record, the anchor of Loyola Academy’s lights proposal was the installation of four 80-foot light poles, two on each side of Hoerster Field, at Sachs Stadium on its Wilmette campus.

Before Loyola’s request made its way to trustees, it faced community criticism related to noise and light pollution, traffic and parking congestion, and safety. Wilmette’s Zoning Board of Appeals considered the proposal over eight hours of discussion spread across two separate meetings, ultimately giving the request a negative recommendation with a 3-2 vote in October 2023.

The school scaled down its request following the negative outcome from the zoning board. Its reduced proposal kept the maximum number of Friday night athletic contests to four – only three of which will be football for the first and second seasons under the lights, according to village documents. 

Additionally, Loyola offered an earlier cut-off time for the lights (shifting from 10:30 to 10 p.m.), committed to having at least four off-duty police officers present at each varsity football game played on Friday night during the first season, and reduced the number of nonfootball athletic contests from 25 to 20. 

In total, the approved plan grants Loyola the ability to use the lights 54 nights per year.

Wilmette trustees greenlighted the proposal during a Nov. 14, 2023 meeting via a 6-1 vote. Board member Gina Kennedy was the dissenter, citing myriad concerns, such as safety, traffic control, parking, enforcement of the proposed restrictions included in the plan, and the impact on the surrounding neighborhood. 

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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