Friday Night Lights Out

And then back on again. What the contretemps over football in New Hope is really about.

Friday Night Football Game

When I heard earlier this month about the decision by the New Hope-Solebury school board to cancel nighttime sporting events at their high-school stadium, I couldn’t believe it. Who would mess with Friday night high-school football? It’s … American. It’s wholesome! Why, it’s so iconic that there have been a best-selling book, a movie and a beloved, long-running TV series on the subject. You can’t just pull the plug on something like that.

The rationale the school board gave was unfathomable: Residents of homes on properties that abut the football stadium were up in arms because the lights from those Friday night games were so gosh-darned bright! The fans in the stands were so loud! The music was so rowdy! And the poor residents of Riverstone Circle had to endure this terrible, terrible hardship for six nights every football season, since that’s how many home games there are. Six nights out of 365, every single year. Oh, the humanity!


Closing down Friday night football wasn’t the only option on the agenda on the night the school board broke the hearts of New Hope-Solebury’s athletic supporters, though. There was also a decision to make about paying an architect $14,000 to look into the possibility of building a new stadium far, far away from the $900,000-or-so homes along Circlestone Drive, which, as you can see from the photo on the link, really do back right the hell up onto the football stadium. It just so happens that I live half a block from the high-school football stadium in my town, and I can tell you, on Friday nights during football season, I, too, hear the roar of the crowds and the rowdy music through my open windows. The thing is, I noticed when I bought my house that it was half a block away from the football stadium. And since the football stadium was there, I kind of figured they’d be playing football in it. Call me crazy, but that’s the conclusion I drew.

But as it happens, I grew up in the next town over from New Hope, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered that back in the day, New Hope was the weirdo school that didn’t have a football team. It was too artsy, I guess—too many hippies who objected to the brutal, territorial nature of the game. Anyway, sure enough, it turns out New Hope-Solebury only restarted its football team in 2009, after a 50-year hiatus. So I could almost understand that if you had bought your home there 20 years ago, say, when there was no football, and then all of a sudden there was football, that could be a little disconcerting. On those six nights a year, I mean.

But then I read the Inquirer article about the school board vote more carefully. It quoted Cobie Hoek, 53, who “has lived on Riverstone Circle with her family for three years.” Huh. So there certainly was Friday night football at New Hope-Solebury when Hoek and her kin took up residence in their home. Yet the lights are so bright and the music is so loud, on certain crisp autumn evenings, that it “often drives them from the house,” the Inquirer says. Often. Well, okay, it’s not just football. There’s also one night game per year for each of the other fall sports at New Hope Solebury—field hockey and boys’ and girls’ soccer—and in spring, one night each for boys’ and girls’ lacrosse. They’re the Senior Nights—remember Senior Nights? A nice, wholesome tradition. But oh, the noise! The lights! They’re as bright as daylight! So poor Cobie Hoek and her family are driven from their home for a grand total of, let’s say, two hours at a stretch on fewer than a dozen evenings per year there on Riverstone Circle. (I guess they’ve never heard of headphones and drapes.) And none of those events goes later than 10 p.m.

There’s a reason, of course, why Cobie wanted the night games shut down so badly. “I didn’t realize it’d be so intrusive,” she told the Inquirer about that football stadium right in the backyard of the house she bought three years ago. I mean. You know? You’re plunking down nearly a million bucks for your house, but do you look out the back windows to see what’s there? Apparently, if you’re Cobie, you do not.

After the school board voted to shut down the night games, Cobie and her neighbors got to hear another unwelcome noise: that of hundreds of fellow residents outraged that a handful of newcomer elitists who don’t much care for football managed to talk the school board (at least one member of which also lives on the Riverstone cul-de-sac) into depriving them of a time-honored small-town tradition, even if it’s one that isn’t particularly time-honored in New Hope. In the wake of this public tsunami of ire, the school board last week reversed its earlier cancellation of night games in the stadium and ordered the lights kept on. For now. Though the board also announced that donors—gee, I wonder if any of them might be residents of Riverstone Circle and have last names beginning with H?—have raised $360,000 toward building a new stadium—in someone else’s backyard. Architect on!

All of which makes me happy to live on a street where the houses cost a tenth of what the ones on Riverstone Circle do. We may not be as rich as Cobie Hoek, but we have a pretty firm grasp of what Friday night lights are all about.

  • bewildered

    Sandy, it’s so sad, if you have so much venom in your body that you need to spit it out like that.

    • Let the kids play

      I think you’ve missed the point entirely. It’s those who want the football games cancelled who are venomous. Selfish. Self-centered. Thoughtless. (We could go on like this all day. Remember – you started throwing insults around.)

      • Disappointed

        I think you have missed the point of the above comment entirely. It’s obviously a remark concerning the abundant and frankly petty comments by the writer. What is the purpose of pointing out an individual and then ranting on about their finances and throwing around classist jargon. Its immature and irresponsible, the writer should be ashamed.

        • French Impressionist

          The write should be ashamed and Philadelphia Magazine should be ashamed.

      • bewildered

        throwing insults around? You mean saying that the writer has venom? Oh, wait, is ‘let the kids play’ the same person as Sandy Wingston? You do use the same style in writing…..

  • Lion

    My God…would you look at the area in the photo just beyond the home bleachers where the homes are?! You can almost hear the wailing of the residents due to the retina-searing light that is so obvious in the photo. The horror. THE……HORROR!

    • J. Meehoffer

      Unless that photo is doctored in some way…what a bunch of d-bags!

      • liltwidget

        That is not a picture of New Hope Solebury’s football field at all. I don’t know where they got it, but anyone who has been to an NHS game could tell you so.

        • Scott DePace

          Got it. The lights at NHS must also be directed BEHIND the field. Those poor people…

          • liltwidget

            No, Scott…the field at NHS is MUCH smaller, so the lights from across the field shine directly at the houses. The lights near the bleachers are also mounted at a level that puts ALL of them above the house’s upper story windows-this effectively shines light directly into the homes behind the bleachers. I do recall that the homeowners at Riverstone had asked at one point for the lights to be lowered so that the issue might be somewhat resolved. I don’t know if that ever happened. Riverstone isn’t the only group complaining about the night games, as I understand it, a bed and breakfast near the field is concerned about losing business from all of the lights and noise.

          • R. Mund

            Oh those poor people. I can’t imagine their pain. Yes, the NHS footall field is only 80 yards long as opposed the the usual 100. You, my friend, are a moron.

  • Lion

    This article says rich folks have less rights than middle class folks? There is so much hatred in this article. I hope it is not in print in the magazine. No matter how much someone makes, they deserve to be treated as a human being. This article is very dehumanizing.

    • Tiger

      Dear Disappointed Lion (obviously): It’s you who misses the point…which is that only a small number of rich people who live near a stadium, rogue school board members, and effete local football-hating power-brokers (in this case they’re mostly the same people) would ever be able to cancel under-the-light friday football for an entire town.

      • Lion Fan

        How do you know did you interview them for the article?

  • French Impressionist

    What a rude, sarcastic, means-spirited article! Inaccurate, too. I live in that neighborhood and my home isn’t even close to the value that the author suggested. The homesnap app she uses isn’t accurate either. Philadelphia magazine should be ashamed to publish such nasty unsubstantiated opinion pieces directed at unfortunate
    targets. Ms. Sandy Hingston epitomizes the bullying, crude, culture that we cannot tolerate. Read her last article from October 7th and see her unbelievable use of four-letter words with so much anger. Philadelphia (City of Brotherly Love) has a magazine that publishes this trash? Unbelievable!

    • Claude M

      It’s her writing style. I actually find snarky to be quite entertaining, especially when it’s used as a device to convey an opinion I agree with. If it offends your delicate sensibilities…go pick up a Readers Digest. If it’s the underlying opinion that bothers you…sorry your house is worth 800K instead of 900K…in either case you should have planned better before you closed on a house next to a football stadium.

      • French Impressionist

        Snarky Claude – I closed on my house long before there was even a dream of a football stadium. I am not against the lights or football and you are making a huge assumption about what my opinion might be. My only point is that this writer is being paid to be nasty, mean-spirited and inaccurate and in her last article was down-right vulgar and yes that does offend my sensibilities. Oh – this is entertainment – not journalism – thanks for bringing that to my attention.

        • Beet L. Juice

          Right, there was no football at NHS when you bought. But there was a high school athletic field next to the house you closed on. You should have planned better given your sensitivity to light being directed to an area near (but not at) your house. As to the article…nasty yes, and well deserved. Inaccurate?…I beg to differ. And of course it’s entertainment. If you want journalism….I will hazard a guess and, for you, suggest New Republic.

  • liltwidget

    I always knew that trolls lurked on the internet, I had no idea that they wrote articles as well. This is a truly mean-spirited piece of garbage writing written by someone who doesn’t live in the area. If she did, she would know that there are PLENTY of homes in New Hope selling WELL above the what-she-considers-outrageous price tag of $900,000. The New Hope football field is substandard at best. The bleachers are in need of repair, there is no snack stand, and when the games have large numbers of spectators, there is nowhere for them to go! Those Friday Night Lights schools that the author is so quick to point out are as American as apple pie have stadiums that cost in the millions (recently in Texas), and even other schools that we play who have young football programs have beautiful stadiums (George School, anyone?). Our boys deserve a new field, no matter the reason. Let’s give it to them and leave the vitriol at home-no matter how much that home cost, Sandy.

    • lion

      This is a good point. THe kids do need a better field, bleachers, etc. It is time to upgrade. How silly was it to build a ‘stadium’ field an arm’s reach from homes when there is acres of beautiful land to choose from. That was not a good decision for our kids. And then to not get permits to put up the lights but still put them up was a bad move for the kids and the school district as it leaves the door wide open for them to be taken down. Use our school money in a way that is forward thinking. (P.S. Remember $100,000 put towards grass ruined in the stadium because game schedules weren’t properly managed.)

      • R. Stiffington

        Where to begin with this post? What would make the field “better”, other than it being in a different place? We have a perfectly good field already. It just happens to be near a small handful of selfish, yet politically influential, whiners who who didn’t plan ahead when they decided to buy a house next to high school athletic fields. In the real world new stadiums cost money. Your capricious solution “build a better stadium somewhere else” is naive and myopic in the extreme. I’ve heard that silly comment about permits before. Do you really think that the litigious Riverstone anti-football whiners (a couple of whom are also local politicians/Board members) wouldn’t have sued to remove the lights years ago if there were an ounce of truth to this? Lastly, I have no comment on the non-sequitur about grass.

        • Zaza

          It is true. The school did not procure the necessary permit. The residents did nothing because it was originally only a few night games a year and they sacrificed those nights in their home for the sake of the kids. But each year the number of nite games has increased exponentially with no sign of stopping the trend. So now it is too much to ask to sacrifice family time in one’s home 60 plus nights a year.
          Recently, there were complaints that the board didn’t advertise the lites out on the agenda pre-vote. People were upset as they felt they weren’t notified and hadn’t had a voice on the issue.
          Well, because there were no permits acquired by the school, the neighbors also did not have a voice on an issue that affects them greatly.
          Apparently, when you sacrifice for someone for years they take it for granted and keep asking for more and more and more.
          It is easy to protect the rights of the majority. Its protecting the rights of the minority that is difficult.
          (Btw-I do not live in the neighborhood.

          • Blue Iris

            Oh, in the face of all logic, we have an authority on the absence school light permits. And some kind of nonsensical connection between the supposed lack of permits and and ability of neighbors to have a voice.

          • Zaza

            Its not just permits, the lights would not have been allowed so the school didn’t apply for an exception to the zoning law. If they had, the neighbors would have been told that the school was requesting an exception to zoning laws and the neighbors would have had a voice. This is how it is done in Pennsylvania. For example if I wanted to build a 4 story garage right on my front lawn, I would need to ask for an exception from the zoning board. Then they would inform my neighbors to see if they had objections, then appear before zoning board and boro council.

            The school just put up the lights. They just appeared one day. What if a 4 story garage just appeared one day on your neighors front lawn but you didn’t say anything because it was just a few nights a year for the kids. But then 10 years later it was 60 plus nights and with plans for more and more and more expansion.

            Maybe if the school board of 10 years ago went through the process that every business, school, and private person needs to follow, we would have a beautiful field in another part of the campus by now with no controversy, fighting. And also a community that looks out for everyone whether it is a large or small group of people.

  • allforsports

    If you grew up in the town next to New Hope , then you are well aware that there was never enough kids to make up a football team in years prior. There wasn’t enough children last year to even make up a Pop Warner team, which ended in cancelation of the whole team. While I get where you are going with this article, being a condescending snot in no way helps. Bringing up what one paid for a house is ridiculous makes you sound like a jealous child. I hope the lights stay on, and I hope they come up with an agreement all are happy about, but chill out on the not very witty sarcastic articles.

  • cora

    the whole subject beside the point. How dare you Sandy Hingston, to judge people you don’t know. This whole bitching about Cobie Hoek inappropriate, to say the least.

    • Robert A. Booey

      In an earlier edition Cobie (yes, that’s her actual name) was quoted, ON THE RECORD, that she and her family were “driven from the house” by the unbelievably “intrusive” light cast onto the football field. I think it’s OK for editorial writers to comment (editorialize), and have an opinion, on issues and people who have put themselves into the public realm. Even when (especially when) they go on record with ridiculous comments.

  • Jim Smith

    Was the use of a photograph NOT of the New Hope Solebury field a deliberate attempt by Sandy Hingston to distort the truth? If it was, then every article she writes is suspect.The actual field has THREE sets of lights, not two sets of lights along both lengths of the field which brings in considerably more light into the homes than you would get from two setups. In addition,R Mund’s comment that the field is only 80 yards long rather the usual 100yards is completely false. This field is regulation size, 120 yards by 53 yards with more space on the lengths and widths of the field.

  • Jim Smith

    Now the actual tipping point in the controversy was not the lights nor the sound, but the OVERUSE of the sound and light. As I pointed out to audience the night that the Board reversed its decision, all night game sports other than football end an hour earlier 9:45 verses 10:45. If the football games started at 6 PM rather than 7PM as does soccer,field hockey and lacrosse, then football would end at the same time as these sports. Case in point, the game against Bristol started at 6PM without anyone complaining it started too early. BUT.BUT. BUT. The real deal breaker is the announcer acting like a radio announcer. Do we really have to hear, “Johnny Jones into the line for New Hope, Solebury for 3 yards, First down an ten.”Or, “Timekeeper, Stop the clock! Stop the clock! He’s out of Bounds!”You don’t have this with the other sports.

  • Jim Smith

    As far as the $360,000 raised for a new stadium, sorry to disappoint , but that money is a pledge which is quite different than having it in your hands. And when the people behind the pledge start questioning the district about how the district maintains its physical plant, these people may have second thoughts. Just one example for now go on U-tube and google, poor conditions of the new hope solebury high school soccer fields.