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Redbirds to get Friday night lights for Homecoming
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DARLINGTON - For the first time in the history of the football program, Darlington High School will have lights for a night game during homecoming Friday, Oct. 11.

The Darlington School Board voted last week to accept a local group's offer to pay about $12,000 for the rental of four banks of portable lights from Interstate Rentals of LaPorte, Ind. Tom Reichling of Reichling Farms spearheaded an effort to get local businesses to pick up the cost of renting the lights.

Darlington High School Principal Doug McArthur sees the donation by community business owners as a big step.

"This will give us a good litmus test to see if it's feasible and if it is what the community wants," said McArthur, who is a former football coach at Darlington and led the Redbirds to four state championships and three state runner-up finishes. "I think it's exciting time for football in Darlington."

Reichling got four other Darlington agriculture businesses on board: Riley Bros. Beef and Grain Farms, Baxter Farm, Stauffacher Highway Dairy Farms and See-Mor Grain, Inc.

The board approved the donation with the stipulation that Interstate Rentals has proof of insurance. The lights will be trucked in and set up for Darlington's Oct. 11 Homecoming football game against Mineral Point. The lights will be mounted on 60-foot poles and run on their own generators.

The Redbirds started home football games at 2 p.m. until 2010. In 2010, Darlington pushed the kickoff times of home games back to 3:30 p.m., due to concerns from other SWAL schools about the early kickoff time. The WIAA would not allow Darlington to host Level 1 and Level 2 playoff games on Friday afternoons.

With tight school budgets and a drop in school funding across the state, McArthur said the district hasn't had the resources to pay $180,000 to $200,000 for permanent lights.

"When you look at the history of football in Darlington in the '60s and '70s, the whole town would shut down and the stands would be packed. With the economy now, it's not easy for people to get off of work early for the games," he said.

McArthur said the homecoming game will be a test to see how the community embraces a game under the lights and whether they will support a fundraiser for permanent lights.

The Darlington Touchdown Club raised $140,000 over the past three to four years to build a restroom/concession stand facility at Martens Field, Darlington athletic director Kurt Cohen said. The facility is expected to open Oct. 11, in time for the homecoming game.