Newton North to play first Friday night football game in six years

A football tradition will be kicked off at the new Newton North High School this week: the Friday night game.

The Newton North Tigers will host the Needham High Rockets in the first football game to be played under the lights at the new facility, which opened for classes in the fall of 2010.

But getting the football teams, the cheerleaders, the lights and the boisterous fans on the campus on a Friday night has required some artful tackling of Newton’s political sensitivities and the city’s zoning bylaws.

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Organizers moved up the start of the games from the traditional 7 p.m. kickoff to 6 p.m. to ensure that the event won’t run afoul of noise and lighting ordinances.

They have met with aldermen and neighbors in recent days to address concerns about parking, lighting, and traffic.

“We’re trying to work together and make things work for the community,” said Tom Giusti, Newton North’s athletic director.

“For this to go right, you have to include the community.”

Newton North last hosted a Friday night game in 2006, when the football team’s boosters rented lights for one game. The school traditionally plays its home games on Saturday afternoons.

Friday’s game will be played under portable lights provided by a local car dealer.

Newton South High hosts a Friday night football game once a year, also with lights provided by its boosters.

Increasingly, high schools around the area have added lights that allow them to play on Friday nights, when the games can draw larger crowds and more revenue for athletic departments.

Newton North is charging a $5 admission fee for this week’s game, the same as for the big Thanksgiving Day match against Brookline. Tickets for Saturday games are $3 to $5.

Newton is among only a handful of communities that doesn’t have lights on the football fields, Giusti said.

The lights add another dimension and excitement to a football game, said Carl Pasquarosa, a Newton North graduate and the general manager of the Honda Village car dealership.

Pasquarosa approached Newton North officials last summer about sponsoring a Friday night game.

“We’re creating a community event,” said Pasquarosa, whose daughter is a cheerleader at Newton North. He acknowledges the game also gives the dealership some publicity.

Some neighbors are cheering for the Friday night game.

“The school should be free to be a school,” said Tom Kraus, a nearby resident. “Schools have all sorts of activities, one of those activities is football.”

Ardell Baker, who also lives near Newton North, said she and other neighbors have spoken to school officials about ensuring that the loudspeakers are turned down Friday night.

“The volume is unbelievable,” Baker said. “We’re waiting and hope that it works out.”

Newton officials are aware of the past concerns from residents and are trying to make sure that the school is a good neighbor, said Bob Rooney, the city’s chief operating officer.

During the construction of the replacement Newton North High School, tensions ran high between some residents and City Hall. The heavy stream of construction trucks irked neighbors, and the city had to tone down the lights at the tennis courts, which were initially too bright and flooded onto neighboring properties.

Pasquarosa said he would like the Friday night game to become an annual event.

Giusti said he likes the idea of lights at a game, but the issue is more complicated. Other sports teams may also want a chance to play a night game, which would mean lights shining in the neighborhood more often, he said.

For now, he’s just looking forward to Friday’s game.

“It’s going to be a special night,” Giusti said.