DUNEDIN – The Dunedin City Commission on June 16 unanimously approved funding for the Dunedin Jr. Falcons lighting on their practice field at Dunedin High School.
The junior football team had installed field lighting 15 years ago on wooden poles, but they had since deteriorated and have since been removed from the field. The program was at risk when it was unclear if the city would help with new lighting because the league cannot afford it themselves, and the team can not play at night without the lighting, said Vince Gizzi, parks and recreation director. Upon approval, there still needs to be a design and request for proposal process, Gizzi said, which could take three months. The goal is, however, to have the project completed by October when it gets darker earlier, he said.
Rob DiSpirito, city manager, said that the funds for the project would come from the remainder of capital project funds for the Pinehurst reconstruction project, which came from Penny for Pinellas funds.
The Jr. Falcons use the high school practice fields while playing their home games on the main football field, and the Falcons pay the electric cost directly to Progress Energy. Dunedin contributes a maximum of $3,500 per year toward the program for use of the main field for all home games, and the team has invested more than $100,000 at this location by constructing a concession stand, storage and restroom facilities, a staff memo said.
“The city has been unable to provide this football team with practice and game-day facilities like we do for our soccer and Little League teams,” the memo said. “The high school facility has worked out very well for the needs of the program, including ample parking, and presently this site is the ideal location for the Junior Falcons to continue. Without lights, the program may have to move to another location or disband.”
The football program and cheerleading services about 400 youth, and even with the uncertainty of the league, 80 kids have already signed up for the upcoming season, with 42 of those being new players, said Carolyn Peake, league president.
The commission approved up to $120,000 to be used toward lighting and encouraged staff to move as quickly as possible on the project.