Room with a view: The OPRF stadium press box will be replaced.TERRI DEAN/Staff

Oak Park and River Forest High School’s 50-year-old, football stadium press box is coming down this summer.

The school is replacing it during this summer’s construction season beginning after commencement in June. The new space is expected to be completely built by August, said Robert Zummallen, OPRF’s building and grounds director.

It was time, he said, to replace the 250-square foot box that houses OPRF and visiting coaches, as well as game videographers and other athletic staff. The new space will be just under 500 square-feet, Zummallen said, costing roughly $197,000. Anything larger than 500 square feet and the state requires the space to be handicapped-accessible. Besides, the current space shows the wear and tear of all its 50 years.

Coaches park themselves on metal stools with wooden tables, looking out of windows that flip upward and remain open only with a latched hook. The long, narrow space isn’t much bigger than an average-sized baseball stadium dugout. The new florescent light bulbs appear to be the only luxury the box has been able to accommodate. The new, pre-manufactured box will arrive and be hoisted atop the Lake Street stadium bleachers via a crane. It’ll be built on a brick foundation in the same location as the current box. The current press box has sat on its wooden base since first going up in 1962.

“The problem is that when they built it, a lot of it is not treated lumber and it’s deteriorating, so it’s not even really holding the structure up as it should,” Zummallen said. “It’s lost a lot of its support. The main structure itself; it’s been eaten by termites, it’s rotting. People shouldn’t be in there and that’s why we said we need to do this this summer.”

The new box has a 30-person capacity which likely won’t be reached, said John Stelzer, OPRF’s athletic director. Six-to-eight OPRF’s coaches and four or five visiting coaches, along with videographers from both teams, will occupy the space, which can also accommodate other staff, reporters and VIP guests, Stelzer said.

“The main purpose is really for our home and visiting coaches to be able to work during games, and for our staff, our statisticians and announcers to have a nice, safe and friendly place to work,” he said.

The current space has undergone some upkeep over the years, Zummallen said. At one point the box started leaning but the school was able to stabilize it. The new space will have ventilation and a heated floor. Except for an exhaust pipe nestled in a corner, the current press box has no heating or cooling system.

The new press box won’t be air-conditioned either, Zummallen said, since the press box is rarely used during the summer.

Additionally this summer, the school will renovate two stadium ticket booths and build a brand new one at the stadium’s entrance at East Avenue and Lake. Over on the South Field at Lake and Scoville, the running track turf is being renovating at a cost of just under $100,000. Originally installed in 2002, certain sections have started to detach and will be repaired and resurfaced by the start of the 2012-2013 school year.

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