CPS in the process of updating several stadiums

Rockne is one of several legacy Public League stadiums getting upgrades, including Hanson on the Northwest Side, Eckersall on the Southeast Side and Stagg on the Southwest Side.

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Rockne Stadium will be back in business this fall after the completion of renovations that include a turf football field and new track.

Rockne Stadium will be back in business this fall after the completion of renovations that include a turf football field and new track.

Provided by CPS

Young junior Anthony Hood will not miss the long bus rides to football games this fall.

The Dolphins’ usual home field, Rockne Stadium on the West Side, was unavailable while undergoing renovations last season. That meant a lot more games at Lane on the Northwest Side, not an easy commute in Friday rush-hour traffic from Young’s campus on the Near West Side.

But Rockne has had its makeover — part of an extensive facilities upgrade plan across Chicago Public Schools — and the Dolphins will be back home this season.

“I love playing at Rockne,” Hood said. “It’s close to home. It’s a very easy trip.”

The old Rockne had a grass playing surface, which made for some rough going as weeks of wear and tear combined with bad weather late in the season.

“Since I was in high school — I graduated in 2012 — you could count on, by the end of the season, the field would be in turmoil because of the weather,” Young coach Dan Finger said.

Now Rockne has a turf field — and a number of other upgrades. More parking has been added, locker rooms have been redone, and there’s a new scoreboard and lights.

Plus, as Finger noted, an amenity most other schools take for granted.

“We haven’t had a speaker system since I’ve been at Rockne,” said Finger, who is looking forward to having an announcer and being able to play the national anthem at home games.

Rockne is one of several legacy Public League stadiums getting upgrades, including Hanson on the Northwest Side, Eckersall on the Southeast Side and Stagg on the Southwest Side.

The Hanson work was delayed by a since-abandoned attempt to build a practice facility for the Chicago Fire at the site (the Fire has since settled on a different site on the West Side).

When it became clear Hanson wouldn’t be in the Fire’s plans, CPS executive director of sports administration David Rosengard pushed to begin a full rehab of what had been one of the busiest Public League stadiums. Besides football, Hanson hosted the Public League track and field finals for years.

But years of neglect took a toll. “It hasn’t been touched in years and it’s not usable,” Rosengard said.

Rockne is one of several CPS stadiums undergoing renovations. The others include Hanson, Eckersall and Stagg.

Rockne is one of several CPS stadiums undergoing renovations. The others include Hanson, Eckersall and Stagg.

Provided by CPS

That is changing. New lights have been installed and a new turf football field and a new track are on the way. Like Rockne, new locker rooms are coming along with upgrades to the concession stand and restrooms.

“We’re excited about it,” said Rosengard, who said the new Hanson could host the Prep Bowl at some point.

The new tracks at Rockne and Hanson are good news for Public League teams that finally would have the opportunity to host IHSA sectionals. That’s something they haven’t been able to do because of the lack of suitable facilities.

Eckersall is getting a refresh to its classic, blond-brick north side, including upgrades to the concession stand, locker rooms and restrooms.

Stagg will get a turf football field and a new press box on the south side, with the current press box on the north side becoming a coaches box. The stadium also will be getting a turf softball field that Rosengard said will have “a Fenway Park feel.”

Other projects include a new track at Lane and locker-room and restroom improvements at Lane and Winnemac.

“The last big project we’re starting to talk about is Gately,” Rosengard said of the football stadium on the South Side. Because Gately is a Chicago Park District facility, any upgrades would have to be a partnership between CPS and CPD.

Rosengard noted that the facilities upgrades are needed to serve a growing number of high schools: 85 in CPS proper, 120 including charter schools.

He credits the support of CPS leadership for turning the ambitious plan into reality.

“I did come in here with a vision and people have heard it and supported it,” Rosengard said, “It’s wonderful.”

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