|City/Town: • Oklahoma City
|Location Class: • Government • School
|Built: • 1934 | Abandoned: • 2012-2013 School Year
|Status: • Restored
|Photojournalist: • Michael Schwarz • Mary Evans
An Oklahoma City icon will soon look a whole lot different with a renovation project in the works for Taft Stadium. For nearly 80 years, the stadium has stood near May and NW 23rd Street. The structure’s facade that most everyone will recognize will stay the same. However, virtually everything on the on the other side the thick stone walls will be gutted, according to Oklahoma City Public Schools. “It’s lasted a long time, but it’s showing its age,” Taft Stadium friend Bob Hammack said.
The stadium was completed as part of a New Deal project in 1934. As Hammack says, if the stadium could speak, it would be amazing. Northwest, John Marshall, Harding, Capitol Hill and Southeast high schools have all played under Taft’s Friday night lights. But there’s been more than just football that could be seen from the steep concrete stands. “There’s not anybody who grew up within a five-mile radius of Taft Stadium at that time on a Friday night could not hear the roar of those engines,” Hammack said. “It was incredibly loud.”
As early as the 1940s, the stadium saw stock car races. Hammack has a three-generation connection to Taft. His dad played at the stadium in 1939. Hammack and his brothers played in the 60s and 70s. Now, his sons enjoy the stadium. And, for 52 years now, Hammack and his high school buddies still get together every Thanksgiving to play a game. “We want to have a showpiece for Oklahoma City, one that our community can rally around,” OKCPS athletic director Keith Sinor said.
Oklahoma City Public Schools says there will be a new turf, track, stands, concessions and locker rooms. It’s all a way to bring the stadium up to code and ADA standards while preserving its integrity. “I think, still, out of the field the heartbeat beats strong and the future looks good,” Hammack said. The renovations will be paid for by a bond issue. Construction is scheduled to start in May 2013 and should last about 10 months. The current stadium can hold 20,000 people. The new one will hold just 7,500 people.
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