LIHUE, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time in seven years, Friday nights at Kauai stadiums will once again be filled with football, fans and community pride now that stadium lights are turning back on.
In 2010, Kauai County officials made the decision to move Friday night high school football games — a long standing tradition in island culture — to Saturday afternoons in an effort to protect endangered Newell's shearwaters.
The move upset many advocates of high school athletics who worried for the safety of the athletes and fans in hot afternoon conditions.
Environmentalists supported the change because the federally protected birds are known to easily get disoriented by bright stadium lights, and come crashing to the ground.
For each injured bird at nighttime games, the county faced a minimum fine of at least $10,000.
The county entered a plea agreement with the Justice Department in 2010, and pleaded guilty to violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act after 18 birds were either injured or killed. It was a loss to the shearwater population that brought thousands of dollars in fines to the county.
Officials did invest in retrofitting stadium lights with domes to protect the birds following the plea deal, but it still wasn't enough.
Sweltering Saturday games remained, and it grew to be a new style of football culture on Kauai. But how long would the change last?
Fast forward seven years to the 2017 high school football season.
Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho said he has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, meaning the first game will happen Friday night, Sept. 22.
"We did talk," Carvalho said on Hawaii News Now Sunrise. "I did receive the MOU from the Fish and Wildlife. I signed it. I looked at all the different dates which includes tonight. We're moving forward and the game will happen tonight."
He announced four games, on Sept. 22, 30, Oct. 7 and Nov. 4, will be played under stadium lights.
The MOU allows the county to use the nighttime facilities as their participation in the Kauai Seabird Habitat Conservation Plan continues.
"For the past several years, we have been working diligently with our partners at the federal, state, and county levels to responsibly reinstate night football games," Carvalho said.
The MOU also works to establish long-term guidelines for light usage beyond football season, which coincides with the birds fledgling period from Sept. 15 till Dec. 15.
"We look forward to the Waimea Homecoming game this Friday night, September 22, at the Hanapepe Stadium!" Carvalho added.
For a list of KIF games and other high school sporting events, click here.