Westminster Christian Academy loses court fight for football lights

TOWN AND COUNTRY, MO (KPLR) – There’s a big development in the battle over Friday night lights for one St. Louis County high school’s football games.

Westminster Christian Academy sued the city of Town & Country over a plan to install lights and a public address system at its football stadium.

Judge Ellen Ribaudo has just denied the school’s request for a court order to allow the lights.

Town & Country's Board of Aldermen denied Westminster's plans last fall. Westminster sued, claiming discrimination.

Westminster students just want the same high school experience most others have:  Friday night football games.  Saturday mornings just aren't the same.

Town & Country aldermen have allowed lights at two other schools:  Principia and CBC.

Wooded areas and large parking lots separate the Westminster campus from its neighbors.

Still, residents strongly opposed the plan to add four, 80 foot light towers; even though they would hold special lights to restrict glare to the football field. Residents packed city hall last fall, wearing red in solidarity.  School supporters wore blue. Opponents argued the plan would create a nuisance and be visually incompatible.  Aldermen sided with their residents.

Now, Judge Ribaudo has sided with the aldermen, saying school administrators agreed there would be no lights in the initial 2008 plans for the school even though Westminster ran conduit under the football field and with access panels for light poles in the hope of adding lights in the future.

The school released a statement saying:  “We are disappointed … but we do respect and value the judicial process and look forward to being a good neighbor for years to come.”

“We're disappointed.  I think it would be really nice to have Friday night football games,” said Westminster parent, Jessica Hillgartner.  “We understand that people don't like lights in their back yard.  But it's disappointing.”

“I just feel like Westminster would be a good neighbor.  I feel like we would respect what the restrictions would be Sorry to hear it,” Westminster employee, Sue Haverstick, said of the decision.

Ribaudo ruled the plans approved for the other schools were different from Westminster's, which involved much taller light poles.

The school spokeswoman could not say whether Westminster might appeal the ruling or come back to the Board of Aldermen with a new plan.