For only the second time in more than half a century, Arnold Field will host a Friday night football game, on a lighted field.
On Sept. 20, Lower Merion will host Penncrest at Arnold Field, the game to start at 7 p.m.
The last time Lower Merion High School hosted a night football game - Nov. 9, 2007 against Harriton — the game proved wildly popular, drawing close to 2,000 fans.
"We're looking forward to [the game],' said Lower Merion High School director Don Walsh. "This will give the community another opportunity to support our football program, as well as hopefully spark more interest in younger players.'
Currently, Lower Merion, the only school in the Central League that doesn't host night contests, does not plan to host additional evening games this fall.
The other high school in Lower Merion Township, Harriton, has used temporary lights since hosting its first-ever night football game in the fall of 2000.
On the night of the Rams' inaugural Friday evening football game, Harriton football boosters club Tom Costa said, "I've had grandparents come up to me tonight and say that this is the first game they've been to in 15 years.'
For Lower Merion's 2007 night football contest at Arnold Field against Harriton, members of the Southside perimeter group of neighbors bordering Arnold Field joined school officials in supporting the event, and the Lower Merion football boosters club pitched in to defray the cost of the lights.
Interest in another night contest at Lower Merion has continued among Aces' players and coaches after 2007. In the fall of 2009, the Main Line Times published an article in which Lower Merion's then-head football coach Jon Rothberg said, "I would like to have Friday night football [on a regular basis]. There is a totally different atmosphere — it usually brings more students to the game. I think playing under the lights is part of the culture of high school football.'
One of Rothberg's players on the Aces' 2009 squad, Lower Merion quarterback Conor Foote, was quoted as follows: "Not having Friday night football games takes away from an enjoyable atmosphere for everybody. One of the main reasons for playing high school football is having that feeling that you are special on Friday nights. ..... I would enjoy seeing Lower Merion have permanent lights because it can be a great promoter — because it draws young kids and other students to be a part of the football program at Lower Merion.'
One of Foote's teammates, Lower Merion defensive end Jason Buckman, added, "We're a great school, and not having lights puts us at a disadvantage. Friday night home games would build excitement for the team, the student body and the community. When we play at other schools on Friday nights, we see how many students and community members come out to cheer their teams on. For example, when we played at Harriton and Haverford, hundreds of our classmates came out to support the team.'
Another teammate on the Aces' 2009 squad, Lower Merion wide receiver/defensive back Billy Chimekas was quoted as follows: "I feel that Lower Merion being the only team in the Central League to not have lights hurts the team. It doesn't allow a good atmosphere for our fans to root us on. A Saturday afternoon is not a time where fans are going to be at their finest hour, ready to get the team excited. I definitely find Friday night games more enjoyable; it presents you with a wonderful atmosphere. It would be quite a gift to be able to play any amount of [home] games under the lights.'
Over the years, some Lower Merion residents have voiced concerns about Friday night games — ranging from "light pollution,' noise, parking and rowdy students wandering the neighborhood at night.
These same concerns had been voiced at Springfield several years ago (when that school did not host night games), but after a brief delay, the school started hosting Friday night football games, without incident.