School officials have been in and out of talks with Forest Park administrators to purchase a portion of the 8-acre village-owned property behind the Altenheim Senior Community, 7824 W. Madison St., for a stadium, Fenwick officials confirmed Friday.
“We are still in a negotiating stage for the property, but there are all kinds of plans floating around,” said Gene Nudo, who was hired as Fenwick’s head football coach in December. “The hope is that it will happen soon.”
“We are very interested in the property,” confirmed R.J. McMahon, the school’s development director. “There would be a great deal of interest among alumni and students and excitement around the institution if we had a facility to host games.”
McMahon says the school has talked about two rectangular turf fields for football, lacrosse and soccer. At minimum, the fields would have “bleachers and a pressbox,” he said. But if the school can drum up enough alumni support, Fenwick would like to have “some sort of facade, locker rooms and a concession stand.” McMahon said Fenwick is “interested in partnering with Altenheim residents and the Park District,” to use the fields when Fenwick isn’t using them.
The stadium neighbors the Altenheim residences and the Residences at the Grove townhome and condominium complex. McMahon said Fenwick would meet with Altenheim to discuss landscaping and other features that would lessen the impact of school-team usage.
Currently, the only motor access to the property is via the L-shaped Van Buren St. which goes west from Desplaines Avenue and empties north into Madison Street. The street is one-way (westbound) near the CTA station at Desplaines.
“We have spoken to the village about possibly partnering with police for traffic control,” said McMahon. “We’re talking about making that a two-way street on game days.” As for parking, the village owns a 600 spot commuter lot nearby, which might have space on evenings and weekends when games would be played.
Nudo, who recently served as president and general manager of the Arena Football League’s Chicago Rush, said he has taken an active part in helping the school “achieve its goal of continuing to better its athletic programs.”
“And a sports complex to play our games at excites me,” he said.
In addition to his football coaching duties, Nudo’s role is working in the development office at the high school.
“It would be a great momentum builder for the future of the program to have our own stadium,” he affirmed. “While ‘recruiting’ is considered a bad word with the [Illinois High School Association], it’s mentioned quite a bit that Fenwick doesn’t have its own stadium.”
Only a handful of high schools in Fenwick’s Chicago Catholic League do not have their own football stadiums, including powerhouse Mount Carmel, which plays its home games at Gately Stadium in Chicago.
For the last few years, Fenwick has played its home football games at Morton West High School in Berwyn. Previous to that, they played Sunday afternoon games at Oak Park and River Forest High School’s stadium. The Friars practice at the Dominican Priory in River Forest. McMahon says “square field” sports such as baseball and softball would still be played at Dominican.
“It would certainly be nice to have all our [rectangular field] teams at one location and have locker rooms there,” said Nudo, who added that preliminary plans for a possible stadium include the installation of stadium lights.
“You’ve got to have lights; it’s like adding a drive-up window at a fast food restaurant; it increases sales and attendance. It’s all about the Friday night high school football experience.”
Nudo, who coached Driscoll Catholic High School to the school’s first ever state championship in 1991, said a Fenwick stadium would be designed to honor the school’s student-athletes of the past, but it was too early to discuss the specifics further. Fenwick High School has had its share of successful student-athletes over the years, from Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner to NBA player Corey Maggette.
Fenwick officials will attend the town hall meeting called by Public Property Commissioner Chris Harris scheduled for Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. in Village Hall, but McMahon said they’ll be listening, not speaking. “We are still having initial conversations with the mayor and [Village Administrator] Tim Gillian. We haven’t talked about prices or anything like that,” said McMahon, who added that the school has two internal meetings scheduled to discuss the plan and then will reach out to the village. “We want to be good partners all around and good stewards of the opportunity [to buy the property],” he said.
Jean Lotus contributed to this article