After pulling the plug on Friday night football four years ago for security reasons, the Joliet Township High School District 204 board is considering the possibility of letting each school host one night game next year.
A committee designated to study the issue told the board Tuesday that Friday night games would be more expensive than those held on Saturday because of the additional security needed, triggering a debate among board members over whether a return to tradition was worth the additional security needs or cost.
"Friday night football is a symbol of what we're all about," said board member Thomas Streitz, who stressed that most schools see Friday night football as the norm.
The district was forced to give up the tradition in 2008, when a series of fights at a game prompted Joliet police to tell district officials it would no longer provide security at games if they were to be held on Friday nights.
Committee members told the board that trying a single night game for the Joliet West and Joliet Central teams might be a good way to see if security issues could be resolved.
An argument in favor keeping things status quo is there have been no problems at the Saturday games, said Chris Olsen, a committee member and the district's director of activities and athletics.
"We haven't had any issues where the safety of our students was questioned or the community," Olsen said. "We are very comfortable with what we are doing now."
If the board were to authorize Friday night games, he said, the schedule would have to be carefully coordinated with other events happening in town. For example, a Friday night game this past weekend would likely have not had enough security because so many Joliet police officers were assigned to other activities, including the downtown Nascar Race Fan Rally, Olsen said.
"The committee feels we have to look closely at community events," he said. "We cannot do a game if there are other events."
Friday night games require six deans, 12 police officers and six crowd control personnel, whereas Saturday games require eight security officers, four deans, two to four police officers and two crowd control people, Olsen said.
The difference in price is $12,600 for games held Friday night at West and Central vs. $5,200 for both schools on a Saturday.
Another problem is Central has never hosted a night game, Olsen said, in part because its parking lots are not complete and lack sufficient lighting.
At West, improved fencing would be needed -- at a cost of about $134,000 -- and there is insufficient lighting in the gravel parking lot west of the stadium, he said.
That said, board member Paige Vanderhyden said she'd love for her family to watch a home football game under the lights since she frequently drives her children to other schools to watch Friday night games.
"I would like to see Friday night football at least one game a season," she said.
Board member Earl Peterson agreed, but added that his "biggest concern is security."
"All the other schools are doing it and they must have similar student bodies and conditions," he said.
The board will need to make a decision by Nov. 1, giving members time to discuss the issue again at the Oct. 16 meeting, board president Jeff Pierson said.
"We can all agree to continue the conversation," he said.
In addition to Olsen, the other members of the committee are Brian Shaw, assistant principal, Joliet Central; Shad Hallihan, assistant principal, Joliet West; Steve Locke, athletic director at Joliet Central; Steve Millsaps, athletic director at Joliet West;and Rich Pagliaro, assistant superintendent.