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Friday night lights fulfill Falcons’ goal

Nice playing field.

Nice homes.

What a setting to be able to walk across the street and catch a game, I remember thinking, riding my bike around the neighborhood around the north side of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School on Sunday afternoons.

I still think that.

Which puts me at odds with the people opposing the school’s plans to light its football field, approved by Bradenton’s city council last Wednesday.

I’m a homeowner. I understand the concerns about noise, lights and traffic and quality of life.

Yet you’d think they’re talking about an all-night convenience store.

Not an elite, respected private prep school attempting to fulfill its mission.

Athletics is part of it.

Saint Stephen’s is not doing this on the cheap to make the plan work.

The football field is being moved to the middle of campus.

They’ve hired Musco Lighting, the best in the business at making lights less intrusive.

It’s for a few home games — the Class 1A Falcons had four in 2009 — for seating 800 fans who can only access the field from Manatee Avenue West.

No parking is allowed along 41st Street West or First Avenue West.

Still that won’t change the minds of people, who say the school isn’t being a good neighbor and have lawyered up.

One of them is Lars Hafner. During the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, the State College of Florida president, who lives in the neighborhood, lectured the city council about honesty and integrity in its decision process.

What arrogance.

This is the same man under whose aegis the name of Manatee Community College, a treasured educational touchstone for decades, was swept away without the public input that would have been appropriate for such a meaningful change.

I hope Saint Stephen’s plans reach fruition.

Many a night I’d rush home, wound up from work, and when I’d hear the PA system from a JV game at Hawkins Stadium, I’d stop and listen.

Then I’d change clothes and bike over to the game.

Perhaps people in the Saint Stephen’s neighborhood will do the same.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee Count. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification purposes.

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