Historic Gately Stadium Reopens
After Sweeping Renovation

Football players from eight public schools and South Side park districts that share decades-old Gately Stadium in Roseland gathered on Oct. 14 to celebrate a renovation that includes a new synthetic turf field, scoreboard, lighting and seating.

They were joined just before the game between Julian and Michele Clark high schools by parents, educators and representatives of the three organizations that made the renovation possible: the Chicago Bears, the Chicago Public Schools and LISC/Chicago.

The $600,000 renovation includes a new synthetic turf field, scoreboard, lighting and seating.

GORDON WALEK

At the ceremony, Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) welcomed Chicago Public Schools Chief Jean-Claude Brizard, Bears’ Director of Special Projects Patrick McCaskey, and LISC/Chicago Executive Director Susana Vasquez, explaining how much the new stadium means to the far South Side community.

“The 8th and 9th wards could not have undertaken this huge project on our own,” said Harris, who along with Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) provided the funds for a new scoreboard. “We are immensely grateful to CPS, LISC/Chicago and the Bears for their support. This renovation is a great boost for the hundreds of student athletes – boys and girls alike – whose sports teams or school bands play at Gately.”

Gately has been a vital hub for youth sports and civic team pride, but the field and facilities at 103rd Street and Cottage Grove had received no substantial renovation in decades. The recent work was made possible by a unique partnership between the Bears and LISC/Chicago, through the NFL Grassroots Program. That effort has provided $1.35 million – and leveraged a total of $8.3 million — since 1998 to renovate nine fields in communities across Chicago, often in partnership with the Chicago Public Schools or the Chicago Park District.

“We’re deeply honored to have been able to play a role in renovating Gately through our partnership with the Chicago Bears,” said Susana Vasquez of LISC/Chicago. “These fields are tremendous community assets, especially for young people."

LISC/Chicago Program Officer Keri Blackwell (left) and Executive Director Susana Vasquez share smiles with Patrick McCaskey of the Chicago Bears, who donated $200,000 toward the renovation through the NFL Grassroots Program.

GORDON WALEK

The LISC/Chicago – Bears collaboration is the local incarnation of a national partnership between the NFL Grassroots Program and National LISC, which has invested more than $30 million to create or renovate 243 fields in more than 70 cities across the nation.

“The NFL Grassroots Program was created to invest in the communities upon whose support we rely and as a way of encouraging positive and healthy youth development,” McCaskey said. “We base these efforts on the realization that athletics pays real dividends in the lives of young people, in their development, and in the overall unity and vibrancy of their communities.”

The Bears, through the NFL Grassroots Program, donated $200,000 towards the $1.2 million cost of replacing the artificial turf. The aldermen's offices each contributed $5,000 for the new scoreboard. Chicago Public Schools picked up the remainder. 

"While I am new to Chicago, I am not new to school sports and the important role they play in the lives of our youth and in the spirit of our schools," said Chicago Public Schools CEO Brizard. "Sports are a great opportunity for students to learn how to work together, show enthusiasm for a shared mission and celebrate accomplishments together.

The marching band at Julian High School takes the field prior to the game between Julian and Michele Clark high schools.

GORDON WALEK

"The generosity of the Bears and LISC make it possible to provide resources for our students that would otherwise be out of reach," he added. "On behalf of the schools and students that now call this renewed stadium 'home,' I extend my most sincere thanks to those who made it possible."

In addition to serving CPS students, the field will also be used for Catholic league games, Jr. Bears and summer leagues. Regular season games began at the renovated Gately Stadium last month and high school football players are already seeing the benefits of the field renovation.

Besides Gately, the LISC/Chicago partnership has supported renovations and improvements at Evanston Township High School; two sites in Jackson Park; LaFollette Park in Chicago’s Austin community, where work is scheduled to be completed in 2012; Lane Tech High School, at the border of the Avondale community; New City; North Park University in North Park; and Orr Academy in Humboldt Park.