A week after a contentious meeting with next-door Rodgers Forge residents, Towson University officials have canceled plans for an electric conduit as part of planned renovations to the university's softball field. The conduit would have allowed lighting to be installed at a later date.
"Since lights are not part of this current project, we will use this time to explore all options for feeding electricity for lighting the softball facility," Towson University President Maravene Loeschke said in a university blog post. "We have chosen to hold off on the conduits because we want to continue to work cooperatively with the Rodgers Forge community and continue to be good neighbors. We feel this action is another positive step in that direction."
Construction is set to begin on the new field in August and complete in time for softball practices in October.
University planning director Kris Phillips said in the post there is no timetable for installing any conduit or lights, as money is not currently appropriated to install lights at the site. However, the post indicated officials' intent to add lights at some point in the future. That's a nonstarter for one Rodgers Forge resident.
"I'm happy that they've listened to the input of the community and accepted it," said Pat Foretich, whose Stanmore Road home sits behind the softball field. "I hope they continue to work with us in the future about the lights. We don't want lights in the future, period."
During the meeting last week, university officials contended that installing the conduits as part of the project would reduce costs to install lights later, and that there were no immediate plans to add lighting. Neither the softball team nor the baseball team, which plays across campus at John B. Schuerholz Park, play night home games.
Fifth District County Councilman David Marks, who represents Towson, said in an email that some noise issues remain on the table to work out with university officials, but called the decision not to install the conduit "a very positive development."
Marks said he — along with Del. Steve Lafferty and State Sen. Jim Brochin — have been working with the community and the university on the issue for months.
"I'm happy President Loeschke listened to the community," Marks said. "It's a very wise decision."
The $2 million planned renovations to the softball field include a new press box, dugouts, concessions, restrooms and netting to catch foul balls, in addition to leveling the uneven infield and outfield. The renovations are necessary under Title IX rules governing equal facilities and to bring the field in compliance with NCAA regulations, according to officials. The softball team has played on the site for more than 30 years.