Dim all the lights, the party’s over.
Instead, it might be time for a picnic. When the Kauai Interscholastic Federation resumes play on the football field this weekend, it will be all natural lighting for a change. Going from Friday night lights to Saturday afternoon sunshine is purely a fiscal decision. The plight of the flight of the shearwater — Newell’s shearwater birds, to be exact — has been an issue for several seasons.
As of Wednesday, when the bird’s fledgling season began, the league was subject to law that protects the endemic species — Federal Endangered Species Act and HRS 195C-4. Drawn to the lights of the island’s many venues, including the biggest ones at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue, the winged babies become disoriented and can plummet into power lines.
By law, the KIF can be fined $10,000 for each Newell’s shearwater that dies as a result of artificial lighting from its rented county facility, according to KIF executive director Diane Nitta. The Kauai Humane Society’s website has a page devoted to the bird.
"Everybody has to understand it’s a law, so that’s why we have to do what we’re doing," Nitta said.
Because of that, tomorrow’s Waimea-Kauai games at Vidinha will kick off at 1 p.m. (JV) and 3:30 p.m. (varsity). It’s a rarity on the Garden Island, but daytime games on Oahu and the Big Island have been played this season. Hawaii Prep always has a 2 p.m. kickoff.
The shearwater is believed to voyage as far as the Marianas Islands to the west and American Samoa to the south. It starts with the fledglings’ seasonal flight from the mountains of Kauai to the ocean, from Sept. 15 to Dec. 15. The KIF has been making adjustments since 2005.
"We had to change our rotation system. All games that fell on the new moon had to be played at Hanapepe," Nitta said. "We hired people and student volunteer groups were on the lookout for birds."
Five years ago, it was the Hawaiian petrel that gained notice. The league began to alter its lighting at gyms, and that seemed to work well. The death of a petrel caused by humans is even more severe — a $20,000 penalty.
For fans, it’s a break from tradition. Vidinha draws 4,000 to 5,000 fans for the biggest KIF football games. At Kapaa and Hanapepe, crowds of 1,200 to 1,500 are the norm. Longtime radio play-by-play broadcaster Joel Pahukula sees a financial hit coming to the KIF, which has long been a league with devoted football fans.
"The heat on the west side, Hanapepe is brutal," he said. "Kids will need to hydrate and a lot of people will have problems with the heat. A lot of people can’t go to the (afternoon) game. I think we’ll lose half (in attendance)."
If revenues are cut even by just a third, that could mean a dip of roughly $8,000 for each game at Vidinha Stadium and $2,400 at other sites. With nine game dates, protection of Newell’s shearwaters will mean a loss of about $38,000 at the gate — a conservative figure — for a league strapped for money.
Factor in massive losses of revenue for athletic programs at the concession stand — and the hit is a standing-8 count, at the very least.
"Every year, we’ve had to do something more. Having games in the day was talked about five years ago," Nitta said. "The county will retrofit (lights at) Vidinha Stadium, but it won’t be done until 2011.
Nitta believes the community will turn out in full force despite the change.
"I hope our community is still very supportive. I think they are. We’re hopeful," she said.
Pahukula, who grew up in Anahola, is less optimistic.
"We want to be sensitive to the environment and animals, but this bird, you can’t hunt it, you can’t eat it. Its feathers can’t be used for anything. It has no bearing on the community," he said. "No other animal is above it in the food chain or considers it a food source. It doesn’t have a whole lot of meat on it."
True or not, the KIF is in no position to mess with the fragility of an island’s ecosystem. Pahukula just doesn’t think it’s worth the trade-off for parents who are free to watch their children only at night.
"Too many people work on Saturdays," he said.
» No. 1 Kahuku at Roosevelt: Two weeks to rest up is great for the Red Raiders (4-0, 2-0 Oahu Interscholastic Association Red East) and almost unfair for everyone else. What more could be fine-tuned for a Kahuku offense that has scored 159 points in four games?
>> No. 2 Saint Louis vs. No. 3 Punahou, Aloha Stadium: When they last met 11 months ago, Punahou ruled the Crusaders in a 26-3 win. While the Buffanblu (3-0, 1-0 Interscholastic League of Honolulu) are still stout defensively, their inexperience at quarterback is a key factor against one of the state’s most balanced defensive units. On offense, Saint Louis (4-1, 2-0) is averaging almost 45 points per game.
» No. 4 Farrington at Kailua: The Surfriders (3-2, 1-0 OIA Red) are making strides with sophomore slinger Kahaku Iaea in the shotgun. Farrington’s defense has been vulnerable against the run-and-shoot (loss to Castle), which makes this an intriguing test for both squads.
» No. 6 ‘Iolani vs. Pac-Five, Aloha Stadium: The Wolfpack (1-3, 0-1 ILH) allowed just three points against Punahou last week until the second half. They might spend a lot of energy chasing quarterback Reece Foy, whose quick feet helped the Raiders (4-1, 2-0) beat Kamehameha last week.
» No. 7 Leilehua at Aiea: Last week’s bye came at a good time for the Mules (2-1, 2-0 OIA Red), who are developing that crucial timing between quarterback and receivers. Aiea alum Nolan Tokuda has led the Mules over Aiea (3-1, 1-1) in their last few meetings, including a 21-6 victory in 2007.
» Lahainaluna vs. No. 10 Baldwin, War Memorial Stadium: The teams split last year’s matchups, the D-II Lunas winning 28-14 (Nov. 6) after Baldwin won 27-19 (Sept. 18).
» Waianae at Kapolei: Survival and the playoffs are at the table for Waianae (1-4, 1-2 OIA Red) and Kapolei (1-4, 1-2).
» Moanalua at Kaiser: An early-season ranking was great for Na Menehune (2-2, 1-1 OIA Red), but now it’s all about getting through the cut-throat OIA Red East and making the playoffs. Kaiser (0-5, 0-3) is probably the best winless team in the state.
» Kalani at Pearl City: The Chargers (4-0, 3-0 OIA White) had permitted just 15 points in three games until last week’s 39-21 win over McKinley. Kalani (0-4, 0-3) is showing improvement offensively.
» Hawaii Prep at Kamehameha-Hawaii: A key showdown for the Division II lead on the Big Island might also be a matchup of the best two teams in the league. HPA (4-0, 3-0 BIIF) won last year’s game at the Warriors’ field 24-8.
» Konawaena at Honokaa: Classic battles of the past, yes. But right now, both teams are grasping for some kind of momentum with a host of inexperienced players.
» Radford at Campbell: The Rams (2-2, 1-1 OIA Red) have an opportunity to merge into the playoff lane while the Sabers (2-3, 1-2 OIA) deal with injury issues.
» Nanakuli vs. McKinley, Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium: The Tigers (1-4, 1-2 OIA White) still have playoff hopes despite consecutive losses to Anuenue and Pearl City. Since the league opener, they’ve averaged more than 25 points per game.
» Anuenue at Waialua: Any extra rest is an enormous boost for the Iron 19 of Anuenue (1-3, 1-2 OIA White). Waialua (1-4, 1-3) doesn’t want playoff hopes to fade, but has struggled against run-first teams (Kaimuki, Waipahu, Kalaheo).
» Hilo at Kealakehe: A shootout loss to arch rival Waiakea took some of the fizz out of the Vikings (2-2, 1-1 BIIF). Now they face perennial power Kealakehe (4-1, 2-0) with the possibility of falling two wins behind.
» Ka’u at Kohala: Two weeks after ending an 11-year losing streak, the Trojans (1-2, 1-2 BIIF) travel 132 miles north to battle another small, but proud program. Kohala (0-3, 0-3) is coming off a tough 14-6 loss at Konawaena.
» Waiakea at Keaau: The Warriors are pumped after big win over rival Hilo, but could falter against a pent-up pack of Cougars (0-3, 0-2).
» Waimea at Kauai: The Red Raiders and Menehunes are familiar with daytime football. Pop Warner is huge on the island, all played under the sun. Kauai (3-0, 1-0 KIF) had a bye after a league-opening win over Kapaa two weeks ago.
» King Kekaulike at Kamehameha-Maui: The Warriors’ hot start was extinguished by Baldwin last week, but this matchup of Upcountry rivals can’t be cooled off.