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Big Cat Comin’ At You

(May 2017) posted on Wed May 24, 2017

Sandblasting and carving a dimensional high school football stadium sign.

By Mike Bethune

click an image below to view slideshow

My father-in-law, wife and both of my children graduated from Plant High School in Tampa, FL, so I made the sign for their stadium back in 1998. Not long after that, the Plant football team racked up four state championships (2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011), but I can’t take all the credit! In addition to gridiron success, Plant is also a very fine academic institution with a ranking of 17th best high school in Florida and 263rd best in the nation.

When a recent storm destroyed the stadium sign, Assistant Principal Lauren Otero contacted me to make them a new one. The sign would include the school mascot, a panther. Problem was, though, that the school uses several different versions of the panther. At the main entrance, for example, there’s a lighted sign of a panther in a stalking stance. I wanted to do something more dramatic and attention grabbing, staring at (and scaring) visiting opponents as they entered Plant’s home field, Dad’s Stadium – a panther coming right at you with fangs showing. Sure enough, when I met Lauren at the office, I saw she had a sticker with a panther head like I envisioned. I told her that was the look I had in mind for the sign, so I sat down that night and designed the sign using CorelDRAW.

The high school administrators really liked the design, so I Googled “panther heads,” and found several with their mouths open showing their fangs. As an artist who has hand-carved signs for 30 years, I knew I could carve the head to look more realistic than the one on Lauren’s sticker.


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