‘Friday Night Lights’ being planned for Taft High School
by BRIAN NADIG
A "Friday Night Lights" football game could be coming to the campus of Taft High School for what is believed to be the first time in 80 years.
"From Day One, I’ve said I wanted ‘Friday Night Lights," said Mark Grishaber, who is entering his sixth year as Taft’s principal. "Alumni have asked for it. For us this is like landing on the moon."
The game would be played on the new multi-purpose athletic field on Taft’s varsity campus, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., where bleachers for between 1,200 and 1,500 spectators are being installed this summer.
For decades, Taft has been forced to play its home games at off-site stadiums. "Two years ago we had a homecoming game against Lane Tech, a home game for us, and we had to play it at Lane Tech," Grishaber said. "Those days are gone."
At the July 9 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council, Grishaber reported that he is working to secure temporary lights for the Sept. 6 game against Brooks College Prep High School. Initial plans had called for the school’s new artificial sports field to include lights, but they were eliminated for budgetary reasons.
A soccer league has offered to have temporary lights displayed on a regular basis if they can use the field, but a decision has not been made whether to lease the field or to find other sources for the lights, Grishaber said.
The league would use the field a couple evenings a week and would vacate the field by a reasonable time, "not 10 p.m., maybe 8 or 8:30 p.m.," Grishaber said. The lights would serve as partial rental payment, he said.
The school plans to have a demonstration of the soccer league’s lights for residents who live near the field in the future, Grishaber said. He added the lights would be focused toward the field and away from the homes on Nagle Avenue.
"This isn’t the old days when they lit up the neighborhood," Grishaber said. "It wont be like ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind.’"
LSC parent member Chris Raguso said that a night football game at Taft is long overdue. "At the end of the day, the greater Taft community wants the lights."
The installation of permanent lights would cost about $300,000, and the school will be seeking donors, with the possibility of the field being named after an alum, Grishaber said. The school also has a long-term goal of a concession stand with washrooms at the field, he said.
Grishaber said that Taft also would play some home games at the Chicago Park District’s new sports stadium near the Taft freshman campus, which is opening in September at 4071 N. Oak Park Ave. The stadium, which has lights and spectator stands for about 2,500, is conducive for games with larger than normal crowds due to its size, he said.
Meanwhile, it was reported that school system security was present during the Fourth of July weekend at Taft’s varsity’s campus to make sure fireworks were not shot off on or near the new sports field. Area residents reportedly relocated their annual fireworks show to Norwood Park, 5801 N. Natoma Ave.
Plans call for a fence to be installed around the field, which will be used for several sports and marching band practice.