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Neighbors leery of high school stadium plans

Posted: January 14, 2014 - 1:03am

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Homeowners living near South Anchorage High School are skeptical of measures planned by the Anchorage school district to mitigate loud noise, bright lights and heavy traffic associated with a proposed stadium on school grounds.

The district has investigated ways to dampen the impact at the request of the Anchorage Planning and Zoning Commission, which will consider approval of the stadium Feb. 10, the Anchorage Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/L2JU5L).

The school was built in 2004. Residents in the surrounding upscale neighborhood say they thought only practice fields would be on the site.

Dianna Jensen’s home is across a strip of trees from one end of the football field. She can hear the school’s bell when it rings. She said a stadium would show the district “going back on their word.”

“The camel has its nose under the tent, and now it’s trying to get the whole camel in,” she said. “I don’t think every single school needs its own football field.”

The school district in recent years has moved toward a “site-based, home field system,” South High Principal Kersten Johnson-Struempler said. She said she hopes to see the stadium built this year but recognizes that the Turnagain View Estates Homeowners Association could appeal such a ruling.

“We’ve been held up through the public process,” Johnson-Struempler said. “It really has created a big ruckus in that neighborhood.”

South High has always played home games at Anchorage Football Stadium near Sullivan Arena. A group of South High parents and students successfully lobbied the Alaska Legislature for a $2.2 million grant. The school district proposed lighting, a sound system and bleacher seating for 1,600. The proposal is similar to stadiums completed at Dimond, Chugiak and Eagle River high schools.

Neighbors question whether the district will follow through on mitigation measures, given the “history of broken promises regarding the South High property,” according to a letter from the homeowners association.

The district is considering treating bleachers with noise-dampening compounds. It also has promised to limit competitions held in the stadium, Johnson-Struempler said.

“We’ve really tried to narrow it down to the most important events,” she said.

Alex Slivka, head of the homeowners association, said his group has spent more than $50,000 on legal fees opposing the stadium. Sound from games will spill into the neighborhood in violation of the city noise ordinance, he said.

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