Friday, March 7, 2014
A fundraising campaign to install lights at Westbrook High School's sports stadium has reached its goal.
The school department had no plan – or money set aside – to replace Olmsted Field's 40-year-old lights, which were deemed dangerous and removed last October.
The high school soccer teams were planning to start their games earlier in the day and the football team was set to play on Saturdays.
Then, Ray Richardson, a Westbrook resident and morning radio talk show host on WLOB, asked officials from the city and school department in June whether they would each contribute $50,000 if he could raise $50,000 in donations.
The project is estimated to cost $135,000.
The School Committee approved spending the money in June, but only if Richardson reached his goal. When the City Council gave final approval Monday to allocate the money, Richardson had raised about $42,000.
His hope was to get the lights in before the start of the fall sports season -- a prospect that was dimming as the days passed this week. The lighting contractor had said it would take between 30 and 45 days to install them.
But on Thursday afternoon, Richardson got the donation that put him over the top. "I'm thrilled for the city," he said.
Richardson said donations came from as far away as Augusta, where a man heard about the fundraiser on his radio show and wanted to help.
"Everybody rallied around this project. It was very gratifying," he said.
Superintendent Marc Gousse said, once he had confirmation that the money was raised, he would contact the lighting contractor.
Gousse didn't know if the lights could be up and running in time for the first sports game of the season, but seemed confident the project could be done by the fall.
"Even if we're off by a week or so, there's still going to be time to get things in the ground," he said.
The lights were taken down last fall, after a maintenance worker found one of the fixtures dangling from the post. An inspection found that the wooden beams that held the fixtures were rotting on all six of the 60-foot light posts.
The field was shut down until they were removed, forcing the homecoming football game and marching band competition to relocate.
Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at