SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The start of the fall Friday Night Lights flag football season is just two months away and a dispute between the league and the Santa Barbara Unified School District is putting the season in jeopardy, leaving hundreds of kids without a place to play.
The league has typically played at Santa Barbara Junior High School since 2021, when the COVID-19 pandemic still halted many indoor and extracurricular activities. However, the Marjorie Luke Theater wants to begin using the facility again on Friday nights, and the district already has an agreement with the theater.
Friday Night Lights flag football offers the sport for both boys and girls from kindergarten through eighth grade, and about 700 kids register every year.
The league and the district have been trying to work out an agreement, but said they have reached a stalemate.
In regards to its agreement with the theater, the school district said that there are many factors in the decision.
"There were multiple factors in this determination, including the condition of the facility after use, considerable parking constraints due to FNL’s size as an organization, conflicting events, and the ability to work cooperatively with FNL caused us to not renew the civic use permit," the district said. "We do wish the FNL well in its search for a right-sized facility to meet all its needs."
League organizers said that they have never received a complaint or been notified about any concern on the condition of the facility since they started playing at the junior high, and that the league pays $120 every night for additional custodial services.
Organizers also said that they never have all 600-700 kids on one field at once, and that the most that play at one time are about 130 students.
"We have offered to add and pay for a couple of additional nights in the fall, to help reduce the number of attendees each night," said Ted Pallad of Friday Night Lights. "We are happy to schedule our games this fall on days and evenings where there are NO conflicts. This would just require communication between the Luke, SBJHS, and FNL. This shouldn't be difficult."