Alexandria City Council Approves Stadium Lights For Local High School

Despite objections and a community agreement from the 1960s, 'Friday Night Lights' will return to the Virginia city.

Stadium lights on a sports field at night
Amon Polin / Shutterstock

Despite objections and a community agreement from the 1960s, 'Friday Night Lights' will return to the Virginia city.

The Alexandria City Council has approved a plan for the rehabilitation and modernization of T.C. Williams High School stadium, which will include lights for night games. The vote, which was 6-1 for the project, will provide lighting for the only stadium in the D.C.-Northern Virginia area, which lacks lights for evening games.

The Washington Post says that despite objections from residents in the adjacent historical area that there will be noise and disruption, the project was voted through. The Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium, which is traditionally styled with a track around the football field, will finally be able to host evening events including football and lacrosse games after dark.

But the debate over the lights goes back decades and involves an agreement between the city and residents of the “historically black Seminary neighborhood” where inhabitants who settled there after the Civil War were displaced to build the integrated high school. T.C. Williams High School was the school depicted in the movie Remember the Titans with Denzel Williams, where the football team was the first in the area integrated in the 1960s.

The residents who were displaced got first dibs on buying the new homes that were built around the high school, and part of the eminent domain agreement guaranteed no stadium lights.

Lars Liebeler, a lawyer who is representing five families in a lawsuit against the city, says that the Alexandria City Council is going back on their promise that displaced members of a community in the first place.

“The city made a promise. We’re asking the court to enforce the promise.”

But the Alexandria City Council says that it’s more than just a lighted stadium involved in the renovation. There will be new stands, bathrooms, concessions, locker rooms, and a sound system that will bring the facilities up to snuff with the other high schools in the region.

T.C. Williams Principal Peter Balas says that these improvements will bring the school up to par with the facilities of the schools they compete against.

“The Parker-Gray Memorial Stadium will now be able to move into the twenty-first century and our students will get the facility they deserve. These upgrades will create a stadium that is aligned with our vision of creating world-class experiences and opportunities for our students.”

The school district is promising that a security fence will also be constructed and measures will be taken to control the crowd entrances and exits for all events.

But this matter is not settled, as the NAACP has taken the side of the community against the installation of stadium lighting. The Alexandria chapter of the organization sent a letter this summer to the Alexandria City Council to explain that the community has been victimized repeatedly.

“Segregation, integration, and marginalization have impacted the quality of life for many of the residents who were forced out of their homes where the existing school currently stands,” the letter said. “It is imperative that we do not continue to traumatize this community.”