(Editors Note: This article has been updated from its original version published in the June 20, edition of the Pioneer Review correcting the Princeton Booster Club name error.)
“Friday Night Lights” is synonymous with high school football games, but for Princeton, playing sports after dark has been an unfulfilled dream for more than 40 years.
School District officials ceremoniously broke ground on Monday for new field lighting, decades after the high school’s first booster club started raising money for the dream to become reality.
“Like the saying goes, the third time is a charm,” said Princeton Joint Unified School District Trustee Cathy Withrow, referring to the district’s booster club, the Princeton Booster Club, who finally raised enough money to illuminate the football field.
“The old boosters started raising money in the 1990s, although it was the original River Rats that started it even before then,” Withrow said. “But it was always unattainable. We kept hitting road block after road block.”
Interim Superintendent Bill Cornelius, whose first job was in Maxwell in 1977, remembers Princeton talking about getting lights on the field way back then.
“That is how long this goes back,” Cornelius said. “It’s been on the books for a long time, but it has finally come to fruition. Princeton will get lights, not only for football games, but for other town activities. This is outstanding. It’s exciting.”
Lance Swift, director of operations and maintenance, said the Princeton community would finally see their dream materialize, thanks to the Colusa Indian Community, who helped fund the project.
“Without the Colusa Indian Community, this project would not have been possible,” Swift said.
District officials said that without field lights, the football team has been forced all these years to play Saturday day games with very few spectators.
“Without lights, we would have 2 PM games when nobody could attend,” Swift said. “We would have maybe 20 people on the visitors’ side.”
While the Princeton Community Eagles has worked hard to raise money for the project, ultimately it was the progression of new LED lights rather than old metal-halide stadium lights, that allowed the project to be affordable, Swift said.
“The old lights – just the lights alone – were about $100,000,” he added. “Now, with the new lights, the whole project is about $50,000. That is for the entire project.”
The Indian Community contributed one-fourth of the project, although the lighting company, LightPolesPlus, of Wisconsin, also knocked off a large amount for materials when the Princeton Community Eagles still came up short of the original bid.
The concrete foundation for the six light poles will likely be poured next week, and the project is expected to move swiftly over the next two weeks. The project also includes lighting the entranceway to the field.
“We are tying to keep as much as we can in house to keep costs down,” Swift said. “None of the cost, except for the employees, is coming out of the district’s budget.”
District officials said having evening events on the field would benefit the school and students in many ways by increasing parental and community participation, increasing snack bar revenue for the student body, and the opportunity for athletes to avoid being on the field in high temperatures.
“It’s just not normal to play in the afternoon,” Withrow said.