Night lights

Night lights

The lights will go on at Ponaganset High School’s athletic complex next Tuesday night when the school’s boys’ and girls’ soccer teams play a doubleheader that begins at 4 p.m. (Breeze photo by Eric Benevides)
With new lighting in, Ponaganset teams play first late games Tuesday

GLOCESTER – Over the past five years, the Ponaganset High School athletic complex has gone through many renovations, and soon, it will host night games under lights.

Last year, while the school was renovating its tennis courts, Athletic Director Tom Marcello said concrete bases were poured for the lights’ poles around the football/soccer field. Because that foundation was laid then, Ponaganset will be able to showcase the new lights next week.

“I didn’t think it would get done this quickly,” Marcello added. “(The school) focused on getting the lights up and operating with an aggressive timeline.”

It was rumored that the unveiling of the lights would be this Friday night, Oct. 13, in time for the football team’s Division III game against the Juanita Sanchez/Providence Country Day/Wheeler co-op team, but Marcello rebuffed that notion, taking a more cautious approach. The Chieftains will instead stick to their schedule and host their co-op opponent on Saturday at 11 a.m.

“Tuesday, (Oct. 9), is the official hookup day (for the lights),” Marcello said. “Right now, I don’t know what the facility will look like or if there will be dead areas off the field. While Tuesday is the hookup day, by Thursday, the lights are supposed to be complete. But I’m a little hesitant to rearrange the football schedule.”

Marcello said that the school is planning to unveil the lights on Tuesday, Oct. 17. Both the boys’ and girls’ varsity soccer teams have home games. The girls will take on Middletown in the first game at 4 p.m., while the boys’ game against Paul Cuffee is scheduled at 5:30 p.m. Marcello said the plan is to turn on the lights during one of those games.

At 7 p.m., the girls' tennis team will also play an exhibition match against Scituate under the lights on its courts.

As for the first football game to be played under the lights, that may be as late as Friday, Nov. 3, the team’s Senior Night affair against Exeter/West Greenwich, since that will be the Chieftains’ next home game after this weekend.

“I think it’s going to be a culture shock,” Marcello added. “Ponaganset has operated in a certain way for the past 55 years. It’s an exciting time. We will have Friday night football and lacrosse games in the spring. This is one of many drastic improvements the facility has undergone in the last 10 years. And we’re not done after the lights.”

With help from different offices in the Foster-Glocester area and the superintendent, Michael Barnes, Ponaganset also has a new track, press box, concession stand, and outdoor bleachers and bathrooms.

The school’s gymnasiums have also seen improvements, especially with the new sound systems in the field house, Marcello said.

“Our administration has been very committed to improving our facility and maintaining it,” said Marcello.

As for the outdoor lights, one reason to get them operating as quickly as possible is for the girls’ tennis matches. With late afternoon games and the fading sunlight, as well as the possibility of the Chieftains hosting a quarterfinal-round match in the Division II playoffs, the administration wanted to make sure they would be able to play late into the evening without obstructions.

“Last year, a match comically ended with cell phone lights,” Marcello said.

Marcello also said that by scheduling night games, more parents will be able to see their children play, whether it’s tennis, soccer, or lacrosse. He doesn’t think every game will be played at night, but over the next few weeks, they will move some games to a later time.

One thing Marcello was adamant about was not moving the Thanksgiving Day game to the night before, as some rivalries have done over the past few years. Other than that, the school will have to wait and see how the hookup and tests go, and then it will move on to the next project.

“If you haven’t been to Ponaganset High School in the last 10 years, you wouldn’t even recognize it,” Marcello said. “We’ve changed it for the better.”