Scottsdale dims use of Scot Bemis Field at Notre Dame Prep

A view of Bemis Field at Notre Dame Preparatory in north Scottsdale during a recent night game. (Submitted photo)

A view of Bemis Field at Notre Dame Preparatory in north Scottsdale during a recent night game. (Submitted photo)

The city of Scottsdale performed its final test of the lights at Scot Bemis Field and determined the school can no longer use the lights until they are replaced.

Jesus Murillo, senior planner for Scottsdale, wrote a letter to Notre Dame President James Gmelich outlining the city’s findings during NDP’s final home game on Friday, Oct. 28. Additionally, the letter states the city will not perform any more tests until the lights are replaced with a product the city approves.

Mr. Murillo also warned the school to not use the lights or the city will take action against Notre Dame Prep. The city’s action could include civil citations, stop work orders, revoke permits or reconsider the Conditional Use Permit, associated with the school site.

James Gmelich

James Gmelich

“We appreciate the city of Scottsdale working with us, and we will continue working to make sure the lighting system we use will meet the requirements upon which NDP and the city agreed,” Mr. Gmelich said in a Nov. 4 email response.

Mr. Gmelich continued to say the vendor which the school hired to install the lights did not provide the services they two agreed upon. In an Oct. 6 open letter to parents, Mr. Gmelich said SportsSentry was the vendor and when the lights did not work properly, the school attempted to adjust them itself.

At the end of the letter, Mr. Murillo thanked the school for its help and openness throughout the process of examining the lights.

“Your willingness to meet, communicate and allow staff to conduct our independent analysis has been greatly appreciated,” Mr. Murillo said in the letter. “I have appreciated the time and effort you have invested thus far to try to correct the situation.”

Nearby residents to the stadium pressured for change for several months. Susan Aufheimer, president of a nearby homeowners association, said in an email to Mr. Murillo she is happy with the city’s decision.

“I am encouraged that the city of Scottsdale has come to the aid of ‘the little guy’ and has listened to and honored our pleas, despite the looming profile of a moneyed institution,” she said in the email. “I hope that the final outcome will be one that fulfills our needs and also those of Notre Dame.”

Len Brenny, a nearby resident to the school, said he is happy with Mr. Murillo’s effort in handling the situation on both sides.

“At certain times, I felt the school was ignoring his recommendations or his timetable to get it right,” Mr. Brenny said. “But my feelings are he’s been more than fair with Notre Dame.”

The city performed two real-time tests over the past month, both during Notre Dame Prep home games. Between the Friday, Oct. 28 home game and the Thursday, Oct. 6 test, the school had a chance to try to get the lights in compliance.

“I’m sure it was difficult for the city to make such a decision against an important Scottsdale institution,” Ms. Aufheimer said in an email to Mr. Murillo. “However, Notre Dame simply failed miserably in its duty to the city, the neighborhood and to its benefactors.”

Jan Brenny, wife of Len Brenny,  said she has no ill will against the school, but the effects of the lights on the community and wildlife were hard to ignore.

“You have the lights, the spills, all those issues, but I’ve been researching the health issues on the individuals and on living things around that lighting area,” Mrs. Brenny said. “I’ve gone from reading of evidences of cancer causing from these lights to hormonal imbalances.”

In an Oct. 6 open letter, Mr. Gmelich said the school hired SportsSentry to install the lights. However, Mr. Gmelich claimed the school tried to fix the error when it learned the lights would not function appropriately.

“Notre Dame has always tried to be a good neighbor to the residents who live near our campus, and we are proud of our longtime affiliation with the city of Scottsdale,” Mr. Gmelich said in a letter. “When we hired SportSentry to design and install a state-of-the-art field lighting system, the last thing that we expected was for that system to fail, and for our neighbors and the city to be upset with us as a result. For that, I am profoundly sorry.”

Despite winning its region, Notre Dame Prep is on a postseason ban for hosting an out-of-season padded football class, bringing an end to the football team’s season.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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