Council meeting deemed a step in the right direction for JCU and UH residents

An arial view of Shula Stadium, named for JCU alum Donald Francis Shula, who is best known for coaching the Miami Dolphins to two Super Bowl victories and the NFL's only perfect season.

At a council meeting on June 20, students and faculty of John Carroll University requested that the University Heights City Council change the use conditions for Shula Stadium. JCU asked the council to allow the football field to be used more regularly for varsity, club, and intramural athletics, and to allow local schools to use this facility.

The current use conditions, which JCU agreed to in 2002, allow for one night football game per year and prohibit the use of stadium lights and speaker systems after 9 p.m. JCU asked permission from council to allow stadium lights to remain on until 11 p.m., to allow for more varsity and club practice times, intramural games, and the sharing of the facilities with local schools.

Dora Pruce, director of government and community relations at JCU, has been instrumental in the university’s efforts to modify the stadium conditions. In her opening statement before council, she expressed JCU’s gratitude at being part of the University Heights community. She expressed her main concern with the current use conditions of Shula Stadium.

"The 2002 conditions restrict intramural, club, varsity and recreational use of Shula Stadium. The current conditions also prohibit seven possible practice times a week," said Pruce.

Gretchen Weitbrecht, JCU’s associate athletic director, asked the council and UH residents to reflect on their own lives and consider if anyone they love participates in youth sports, high school sports, collegiate track, baseball, football, rugby, soccer, or any other athletic activity. She went on to explain several scenarios in which the stadium could better serve these athletes if the university were permitted to use its lights until 11 p.m.

"Simply put, we want to better utilize our amazing facilities," said Weitbrecht.

University Heights residents had an opportunity to express their concerns. Several residents of Washington Boulevard and Claver Road, the two streets that would be most affected by noise and lights from Shula Stadium, shared their thoughts on extending the hours.

The major concern of these residents was the stadium’s impact on their personal and professional lives. Families fear that extended hours at the stadium would interrupt peaceful evenings and make it difficult to put young children to bed. Business people in the neighborhood fear the lights and speaker system would prevent them from preparing for important meetings.

Several residents commented on the number of vacant houses on Washington Boulevard and Claver Road. Residents fear that extended hours at Shula stadium would increase the difficulty of selling these homes and their own homes in the future.

By the end of the evening, no ruling was made on the issue. Councilman Steven Bullock remained optimistic and confident that, if both JCU and the residents of University Heights work together, everyone’s needs can be met.

"The response to this issue should be made together. With coordination and hard work, I believe a positive solution is possible," said Bullock.

The issue will be discussed during committee-of-the-whole work sessions scheduled for July 5, 17, and 18, at 7 p.m. Anyone who wishes to speak on the issue is encouraged to attend.

Jim Perkins

Jim Perkins is a student at John Carroll University and a Heights Observer summer intern.

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Volume 4, Issue 7, Posted 10:42 AM, 06.28.2011