Taft HS booster club aims to make school the premier place on NW Side for football; goals include more spectator stands, concession stand to enhance ‘Friday Night Lights’ experience
by BRIAN NADIG
“Friday Night Lights” became a reality at Taft High School when its new outdoor sports complex opened in 2019, and school officials and the Taft Football Booster Club are hoping to enhance the experience with additional spectator seating and a concession stand.
“We are trying to make it the premier place for football on the Northwest Side of Chicago,” said booster club president Michelangelo Scalera.
The club’s mission includes promoting the team’s accomplishments, fundraising, networking with former players and supporting current players. The club recently hosted a banquet in which members of Taft’s 1972 Public League Championship team announced a new annual scholarship in memory of their teammate, Phil Vierneisel, who played at the University of Illinois.
The club is hoping to secure sponsors for the school’s multi-purpose sports field, as fans may see banners at next season’s games honoring the donors, Scalera said.
Taft principal Mark Grishaber said that he has been talking to many of the school’s alumni, seeking their assistance in funding infrastructure improvements inside the school and at the sports complex. Two years ago 1966 Taft graduate Len Wislow, who also played at Illinois, donated $300,000 to help pay for lights for the sports complex.
The 2022 wish list includes the addition of low-rise spectator stands for 400 to 500 people along the visitor sidelines. The main stands, which include a press box, accommodate about 1,400 people and are located on the east end of the field.
The project will cost about $80,000, and the goal is to have the additional seating installed by this fall, Grishaber said.
Another proposal calls for a concession stand, but the funding for its construction will take longer to secure, Grishaber said.
The construction bid came in at $400,000, which Grishaber said seemed high given that its consists mainly of cinder block and a sink and is the size of a standard garage. He said that he plans to explore less expensive alternatives.
“Our priority will be to get more bleachers this year,” Grishaber said.
In recent years Taft has upgraded several of its sports facilities in an effort to be more competitive for the top students in the area. In the past, school administrators said that the school would lose some local students to another school because of their sports programs.
“We offer every sport in CPS and more, 34 sports and counting, all levels, frosh, soph, varsity and JV, over 70 teams,” Grishaber said.