Lights to enhance youth football

The Baltimore Sun

As four AA Gridiron Rebels youth football teams practiced tackling and blocking Monday on fields at George Cromwell Elementary School, their parents and friends on the sidelines watched, then squinted.

As dusk turned to dark, it became difficult to see the action. Finally, about 7:20 p.m., the lights came on, but only on parts of the two fields in Glen Burnie.

That will no longer be a problem next week, when the teams move to North Glen Park. The county Department of Recreation and Parks has completed a $185,500 renovation of the field, including adding lights.

J.R. Hall, who is in charge of the Rebels, said the teams will celebrate the new field and lights next weekend. Two games will be played under the lights Oct. 12, a Friday night, and a parade and daylong celebration will be held the next day, when six contests are scheduled, the final one at night.

"Youth football thrives on people coming to watch it," Hall said. "People love watching the games under the lights. It puts the Rebels on an even keel with a lot of the other organizations in the county that have the lights that brought in the big crowds."

The Rebels, in their 47th year, are the oldest members of the Anne Arundel Youth Football Association, Hall said. He coaches the 90-pound team and remembers having teams practice and play 15 to 20 years ago at North Glen.

The Rebels moved to Cromwell in 1994 because fans needed to walk inside the concession stands to find bathrooms, and the field the Rebels used wasn't laid out well for football. The lay of the land forced teams and cheerleaders to stand on hills.

The fields that surround Cromwell can easily accommodate all eight Rebel teams at once, but the group found a new challenge in the lighting.

The Rebels couldn't play night games at Cromwell because the lights aren't strong enough to illuminate the whole field equally.

The Rebels would wait until the last second - often until past midway through practice - to turn on lights at Cromwell to save money. Other times, they shortened workouts.

At the new field, the Department of Recreation and Parks pays for the lights.

The North Glen Park field has two banks of lights on one side of the field and one on the other. Three more are being installed.

The hill has been moved back about 30 yards so that teams won't have to stand on it. And Hall said that drains were installed so that the sidelines "don't become swamps when it rains."

The county tripled the parking spaces from about 60 to 185.

It moved concession stands back to about 75 yards from the field. Hall said the longer walk might keep people from buying snacks, and those profits make up a big chunk of the Rebels' revenues. But the county installed two new bathrooms, and everything passed Health Department inspection.

Rudy Brown, a coach of the 110-pound team, said that because of the changes, "we'll be able to have more kids and be able to handle more kids. We'll be able to have quality night games, and everything will be nicer all the way around."

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