The Lou Nistico Fieldhouse

Athletic fields around Westport bear the names of men and women who contributed greatly to the youth of this town:  Albie Loeffler.  Jinny Parker.  Doc Doubleday.

Without knowing it, every time we mention those sites, we honor an important part of Westport’s past.

So why have we forgotten the “Lou Nistico” part of Lou Nistico Athletic Complex?

The reflection of lights, and an exercise machine placed in front, don't detract from this portrait of Lou Nistico near the fieldhouse.

Staples’ enormous fieldhouse — where people of all ages run, pole vault, long jump, wrestle, play basketball, hit baseballs, kick soccer balls, toss lacrosse balls (sometimes all simultaneously), and swelter during graduation ceremonies each June — is named for a man as gargantuan as the indoor space itself.

Lou Nistico was a co-owner of the Arrow Restaurant.  It was a family place that defined Saugatuck — all of Westport, really — for generations.  But calling him a restaurateur is like saying da Vinci “liked to draw.”

Lou loved this town — particularly its young people.  He would do anything for them — and often did.  He gave them jobs.  He invited teams to drop by after games, and fed them for free.  He bought clothes  so athletes and musicians could look good at banquets and concerts.  He paid for college educations.

And he did it all quietly, unobtrusively — no mean feat for a man who tipped the scales at 400 pounds.  (He was weighed once at Gault — true story.)

Lou Nistico did many other things for Westport.  He was the kind of guy who — through force of personality and physical presence — cut through crap red tape, and got highway departments and police officers to do what was good for the town, back in the days when such things were possible (or at least not likely to be videotaped or blogged about).

Though Italian through and through, Lou would’ve been proud to be called a mensch.

When the Staples fieldhouse was built 30 years ago, it was named for Lou Nistico.  A larger-than-life portrait by Ralph Ruta was hung in the hallway, by the pool.  “Lou Nistico Athletic Complex” was written in large letters above the outside entrance.  Almost immediately, everyone forgot.

In 3 decades, I have never heard the fieldhouse called by its proper name.  Newspapers, Channel 12, Staples broadcasters — all refer to it simply as “the fieldhouse.”

It’s hard to overlook a man as big — or as big-hearted — as Lou Nistico.  But Westport has managed to do just that.

(Thanks to Red Izzo and Paul Lane for suggesting this post.  They note that the Wilton High School fieldhouse — named for longtime Westporter and former Wilton athletic director/coach Nick Zeoli — has suffered a similar fate.  But that’s a story for an “06897” blog.)

The sign at the entrance to the Lou Nistico Fieldhouse shows its age.

19 responses to “The Lou Nistico Fieldhouse

  1. Lou Nistico was a great person who mentored & supported so many people, including myself.

    Like the entire Nistico family he was a great
    asset to the community and we should all be very thankful.

    God bless you Lou

  2. don’t you think its about time they redo the sign at the entrance?

  3. woah…now that nick zeoli was brought onto the westport blog, i hope you won’t mind my using the same forum to say that nick zeoli is hardly forgotten, i.e., it’s more appropriate to say that he has always been bigger than that field house. he went out of his way to do for people whether they were students, teachers, grandparents of students, their visting dogs, etc., and, more : as extroverted as he was when it came to accepting thanks he was the epitome of humility.

    of course, if you never had the chance to speak with him personally, you would not believe he was and i am sure still is just that special.

  4. Linda Gramatky Smith

    A simple idea: if Staples began to refer to it in all in-house emails, all press releases, all Board of Ed reports, all info sent out to parents and students, as the “Nistico Fieldhouse”, wouldn’t that go a long way to having the real name cemented in people’s minds. I doubt people would switch to the “Lou Nistico Athletic Complex”, but saying the “Nistico fieldhouse” is just a tiny step forward. Once someone starts the ball rolling, I bet it would “pick up a lot of snow as it rolls along”. Just an idea.

  5. Tough to implement calling something that has never been really called it. I applaud Mr. Nistico for all his efforts on behalf of Staples sports but he was no Albie Loeffler.
    Actually I am not sure why you have to name a building, a field or really anything?? In my 50 year recollection, the only names that stuck were Gault Park and Rogers Field. With new construction, will we (like pro sports) initiate buying rights to the name?????

  6. For those of us who grew up in Saugatuck and/or were Staples athletes, the Nisticos were and are royalty. Kudos to Lou and his brothers Joe and Frank for all that they did for Westport and to Chich and Tommy for keeping the proud legacy alive. I recall standing next to Lou during a pre-season football scrimmage in ’64 or ’65 and hearing him say to me, “Tommy, you boys should be grateful to play before men like these.” He then gestured toward Mr. Ruggiero who was missing an arm and Dr. Lynch who was missing most of a foot. Both men, and others on that sideline, including my dad, had been wounded during WWII. To us they were just our dads. To Lou they were heroes. Linda, your suggestion is on target: simply call the structure the Nistico Field House in all communications and the problem is solved. To my pal and classmate CAS, no need to compare Lou and Albie. They were each giants to us in their own way and their memory is sacred.

  7. Would be nice if they could move the portrait from the entrance by the pool to the main entrance. That would be a nice 1st step.

  8. Eric Buchroeder

    As one who grew up when both Coach Loeffler and Lou Nistico were in their prime of life, I take umbrage at the uncalled for assertion that Lou was “no Albie Loeffler.”

    Both were on the same team and the winners were Westport kids.

    They were two wonderful people who do not need to be compared to one another except with gratitude that they both lived in Westport at the same time.

    They each touched many, many young lives in Westport and both did it one at a time.

  9. I also knew both Albie Loeffler and Lou Nistico and, while they were had very different personalities, I second Eric’s remarks. Both really put themselves out for Westport kids. Those of us who grew up in the sixties were very fortunate to have them around.

  10. Eric, no umbrage need be taken. Although Carl played soccer, baseball and golf at Staples in the early and mid-60s — and attended college on a soccer/golf scholarship thanks to Coach Loeffler who went to bat for him even after Carl missed his entire senior soccer season courtesy of a broken collar bone — my pal CAS may be among the 2-3 Staples athletes of that era who admittedly had no knowledge of or interaction with the Nistico family except for an occasional visit to the Arrow. He has been filled in and has now joined the fold.

  11. Eric Buchroeder

    Its amazing how vivid are our middle-aged recollections of those two men and that great restaurant. We were lucky to grow up in that era.

  12. True. Eric, and for those of us who haven’t lived in Westport for decades those scenes are frozen in memory, even more vivid and important now then they were then. Btw, Eric, when you were a little guy in the late 1950s you lived next door to us on Treadwell Avenue in Saugatuck. I remember your late mom, Martha, very clearly and fondly.

  13. I used to work at the Arrow Resturant and I remember Lou, Joe and Frank. They were great to me and feed me well as I wash dishes. But what I recall the most was the night we landed on the moon. I was working and he call all of us out to watch the event.
    Mike Class of ’71

  14. Eric Buchroeder

    Jeez Tom, I remember you, but I was four when we moved to Greens Farms. I remember (fondly?) eating dirt in your yard on a dare. Your younger sister is Emmary, right? It was before our time but I also remember my mother telling me that Lou Nistico once worked two jobs: as a letter carrier on our street and at the Arrow. Do you remember that? Where are you living now? I’ve been in Cincinnati since ’92 but will be in Westport for the SHS ’70 40th in August. Thanks for the time capsule!

  15. Ha! I remember the dirt eating incident clearly! I was eight. I think Dave Haehl, who lived down the street, shared the dirt meal with you. God knows what else was consumed. I don’t even want to think about that! I’m still in touch with the guy whose family bought your old house: Sandy Arnn. NYC weekend family tat eventually moved fulltime to Westport. Your old house, btw, looks exactly the same. Yes, Emmary ’69 is my younger sister. My other sis, Suzy, is ’65. Em spent her entire career as a senior buyer and merchandise manager for big NYC dept. stores and buying groups. Lives in Redding. You can see Suzy’s name on the CBS “48 Hours” crawl as senior coordinating producer. She has spent her adult life at CBS News. Minus a three-year sojourn in Norwalk in the mid-80s I’ve lived in NYC since the early 70s. Your mom was right about Lou N. He delivered mail on Treadwell, Indian Hill and Sunrise while also aiding his parents in runing the original Arrow at the corner of Saugatuck and Charles. His brothers also doubled as mailmen. I can still envision Lou lumbering across our front yard in the summer lugging his mail bag with neighborhood kids tagging along.

  16. Eric Buchroeder

    Tom, my sister Pat and I were heartbroken when mother sold that house. She was a single parent, the house was showing its age and the Arnn’s used to rent it in the summer when we’d go to Maine to my grandmother’s and when they offered mother I think $11,000 for it, she couldn’t turn it down.

  17. Eric Buchroeder

    You mentioned Dave Haehl, I was a year behind him in school and remember him well but sadly I think he passed away last year. Also, do you remember when Davy Crockett coonskin caps were the rage and our little collie pup swiped all of them in the neighborhood and brought them to our back porch we had a pile of I think 50 Crockett caps and crying neighbor kids and mother had to return them to all the victims of which I think you were one. I also remember sledding down Treadwell Avenue. Your mother’s nickname was Buzz, wasn’t it? She was one of mother’s best friends.

  18. Billy Nistico

    Thank you Dan for posting this. My grandfather would have been supremely honored at the dedication. I wasn’t aware at how bad the sign looks these days!

  19. Joanne Nistico

    Hi Dan, Thank you for this blog on my father Lou Nistico. My father always helped others without wanting to be congratulated or recognized. He was humble and he cared. During his funeral there were a number of people who came up to us to tell us the moments of caring and understanding and contribution he gave to others which we as his family did not know about as he never boasted or bragged. It is wonderful that his portrait is hanging in the Lou Nistico Athletic complex. We consider it the Athletic complex and not just a field house. My father Lou realized that through athletics the youth of our town were given a vehicle to utilize their skills to become stronger and greater human beings when applied appropriately. There is nothing he would have loved better than to continue to be a part of the athletic community of Staples and Westport. He is given the opportunity to be viewing the team playing, skirmishing and vision of excelling for the youth of Westport on a daily basis. I am sure he is smiling as always. Thankfully, Joanne E. Nistico

    P.S. Let’s hope the town of Westport will bring the marquee up to his level of excellence.