BELOIT - Jen and Derek Diehl are hoping for another winning season, this time in the restaurant business.
Derek Diehl, the head football coach at Beloit Turner High School, and his wife are opening Coach's Bar & Grill, 2745 Prairie Ave., in the former Pitcher's Mound at 2 p.m. Sunday with a new staff of 25.
The Diehls completely remodeled the establishment to pay homage to the local sports scene and coaches. The restaurant features many nods to the bar's rich past as well as great moments in games. From little pieces of the former Turner High School gym floor and bleachers incorporated into the design to sports jerseys and memorabilia from Turner and Beloit Memorial high schools, the Beloit Snappers and Beloit College teams, customers will find sports surprises in every corner.
The restaurant will offer burgers, sandwiches, wraps, salads, pizza, wings, barbecued ribs, brisket and pulled pork and dishes such as bone-in ribeye, surf and turf and pasta dishes. The sports haven will feature Friday fish fries and daily tailgate parties from 2 - 6 p.m. with food, drink and wing specials.
To help provide the most authentic tailgate experience, Jen said she convinced a guy to saw off six inches of the back of his pickup truck and mount it on her wall.
"Every sports fan has tailgate parties, I just have one inside," Jen said.
Coach's Bar & Grill will be open for lunch and dinner every day, open for breakfast Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m., and with a Bloody Mary bar on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Always a winning team and a competitive couple, the Diehls have years of experience on the field and off. Derek, who is heading into his fifth season at Turner, has a strong history of turning around losing programs. For the past 25 years, his wife has owned a roller skating rink, miniature golf course, three laser tag arenas, a bar and grill, breakfast and lunch cafe, outdoor beach restaurant, bowling center, a semi pro hockey team and two semi-pro football teams.
"We are in the business of winning," Jen Diehl said.
When Derek was hired to be head football coach in Williams Bay, the team had lost 56 straight games. Three seasons later, the team qualified for the WIAA playoffs. Turner recruited Derek in 2015. Within his first year Turner's football team was conference champions, and during the second season made it to the first round of playoffs. After injuries riddled the team in his third season, Derek's Trojans were back in the playoffs in year four. Derek has also helped the district as its director of safety, assistant supervisor of buildings and grounds and as director of transportation.
When the couple first came to Beloit, Jen became a substitute teacher in the School District of Beloit, a job she said she loved and which resulted in lots of new friendships. She was enjoying her new life in Beloit when she spotted the former Pitcher's Mound sign.
"I peeked in the front window and thought this place should be opened," Jen Diehl said. "It's a staple in the community."
To keep the nostalgia, she kept the basketball hoop in the restaurant. However, she renovated the rest of the bar from floor to ceiling. She redid the floor to look like an ice hockey rink, added football turf to the floor of the upper loft and created a new pergola in the bar area.
"I want it to feel like you are at your friend's house, or are in someone's man cave or backyard," Jen said. "All staff will be wearing sports jerseys. You will either love their team or immediately start a banter or friendly rivalry."
In the "coach's corner," there is comfortable furniture and a Smart TV where coaches can review game film and draw plays on the white board.
Eighteen TVs were set up allowing fans to select any game to watch.
Some of Turner High School's 1963 bleachers and pieces of gym floor were incorporated in the restrooms to help jog some more memories.
Because Jen Diehl is a fan of all types of coaches - from life coaches to teachers - 5 percent of everyone's bill will go to a favorite nonprofit the customer selects.
The Diehls said anticipation for the restaurant's opening is growing as they've had close to two dozen people a day stopping in to see the place.
"This was built with Jen's vision and input from community members that popped in," Derek Diehl said.
Not only are people excited about the ambiance and dining options, but said they like that there is ample parking.
In addition to a capacity of 166 people, the restaurant has a large kitchen. The Diehls hope to sell a lot of takeout orders to area businesses for employees on their lunch breaks.