Taft may get permanent lights for its sports field
by BRIAN NADIG
The Taft High School Local School Council at its Oct. 8 meeting heard updates on the possible installation of permanent lights for the sports field at the varsity campus and the planned increase in parking at the freshman campus.
In September, the first-ever "Friday Nigh Lights" football game was played on the varsity campus, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., after 1966 Taft graduate Len Wislow paid for the cost of temporary lights for the game. Taft won the game. A multi-purpose sports field, with spectator stands, a public address system and a press box was installed earlier this year.
Taft principal Mark Grishaber said that permanent lights would cost about $356,000, and Wislow has expressed interest in donating $300,000 for the project. He added that the school is hoping the school system would cover the remaining expense.
The school plans to meet with nearby homeowners to discuss the project, Grishaber said. "It’s really going to be for nighttime football games," he said of the lights.
The school had hoped to play most of its home football games at the Chicago Park District’s new Dunning stadium, located just to the north of the Taft Freshman Academy, 4071 N. Oak Park Ave.
It was also reported that the outdoor running track at the freshman campus is being replaced. Grishaber said that it was built with the wrong pitch, creating a draining issue.
In addition, there is insufficient parking at the Dunning stadium, which has a 90-space parking lot to accommodate large crowds, Grishaber said.
"We have problems dropping off 1,000 kids (at the freshman campus). Where are we going to park cars for 1,500?" Grishaber said. At the varsity campus, many spectators can walk to the game, and there are multiple parking options, including the school’s lots, he said.
Meanwhile, plans are being made for the school system to lease from Maryville Academy the site of an underutilized parking lot that is adjacent to the freshman campus and can hold about 40 to 50 cars, Grishaber said. Maryville operates a crisis nursery at 4015 N. Oak Park Ave.
"I have 66 spots for 90 (staff members)," Grishaber said. Some teachers have been parking on Normandy Avenue, which cuts through the industrial park to the northeast.
At the meeting, representatives of area businesses in the adjacent industrial corridor expressed traffic and safety concerns about Normandy being used for the dropping off and picking up of students. Grishaber said that removing the need for teachers to park on the street should keep Normandy less congested. Due to traffic backups on the main driveway in front of the school, Taft administrators have suggested that parents use the Dunning stadium parking lot or Normandy for student drop-offs.
The school is scheduled to hold an open house at the freshman campus on Saturday, Nov. 2, with sessions starting at 9 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Families are asked to attend one of the sessions, which will start in the gym and include a campus tour.