There’s no place like home. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz said it. Mary Higgins Clark titled a novel after it. Perry Como sang a Christmas tune about it. And now the Roosevelt Lakers and their fans are basking in it.
Home: Roosevelt University’s new two-floor, 28,000-squarefoot Lillian and Larry Goodman Center at 501 S. Wabash Ave., and the first facility of its kind for intercollegiate athletics in Chicago’s Loop.
“It’s a beautiful feeling to have a place like this,” remarked Roosevelt Lakers fan Cornell York as the Lakers men’s and women’s basketball teams won their first home games ever played in the new field house on Dec. 1, 2012.
“Before, it always seemed like we were away,” added York, who has attended every Lakers game this season, including at a University of Illinois at Chicago gym that Roosevelt rented earlier in the season for Lakers practice and home games.
At the Goodman Center opener, York saw his son, Tyree, post 13 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds – a factor in his selection soon after as the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference’s Player of the Week.
“This place blows me away,” said Cornell York, who had never seen so many fans – a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 – on hand to cheer on the Roosevelt Lakers. “Finally, we’ve got a place to call home,” he said.
The new facility is a hub for Roosevelt’s sports program, which Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton reinstated in 2010 after a 21- year absence as a way to build community and enhance the college experience for the University’s growing traditional-aged student body.
Today, there are nearly 200 Laker student-athletes in eight sports and on 12 squads, including six women’s teams for the first time in the history of the University, all competing at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) level.
The gym is on the second floor of the Goodman Center, while a strength and conditioning center, training and meeting spaces, student lounge and locker rooms are on the first floor.
The facility’s amenities foster fellowship among athletes, coaches and athletics staff and are certain to be a draw for prospective students who want athletics to be part of their college experience.
“We now have a program and a facility – and that sends the message that the University is serious about athletics. We are here to stay,” said Middleton.
Located at the southeast corner of Congress Parkway and Wabash Avenue, just steps from the University’s Auditorium and Wabash buildings, the Center is named for lifelong Chicagoan Larry Goodman and his late wife, Lillian.
“The University has contributed a lot to the city,” said Goodman, who gave the lead gift for the field house, which not only hosts Lakers men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball, but also intramural sports, recreational programming, University activities and large external functions.
“My hope is that this building will be a catalyst for the growth of the University and that it will add to the vitality of our great city,” said Goodman.
Designed by Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB), a Chicago and San Francisco-based architectural firm noted for college sports and recreational facilities around the nation, the Goodman Center is unique, in part, because of its urban location.
“It was an exciting project to work on because of the location,” said Devon Patterson, design principal with SCB and lead architect for the $12 million building.
While SCB previously has designed multiple college sports facilities, all have been on sprawling sites at the University of Notre Dame, Lake Forest College, Arizona State University and Loyola University’s Lake Shore campus, to name just a few.
“Our challenge was to tie buildings on both sides of Congress Parkway into one contiguous campus,” said Patterson. “That meant thinking about this project in a different way – as a gateway and front door to Roosevelt’s Chicago Campus.”
The Goodman Center’s colors match the Auditorium Building’s terra cotta and limestone façade. Its aluminum panels and tinted-ribbon windows, patterned in a random, linear fashion, resemble the Wabash Building’s varied glass. And much like the new Wabash Building, the Goodman Center also is an exemplary green project that is expected to be LEED certified.
“The project is a beacon for the University in the sense that it extends the Chicago Campus to the south side of Congress Parkway for the first time,” the architect noted. “But it also is a gateway into the heart of the city that starts on the north side of Congress with Roosevelt University,” he said.
From a bleacher-seat near courtside, Lakers fan Jennifer Tamburrino takes photos as her daughter, Maria, shoots and scores for a team that wound up making history this season. Tamburrino has one of the best seats in the house to monitor the scoreboard that not only tells the score, time and period, but provides stats on home and visiting players whose points and fouls are updated every time they re-enter the game.
“It’s exciting to finally see everything come together,” said Tamburrino, a member of the Lakers Club, which includes alumni, fans and friends who are interested in promoting Roosevelt athletics. “I’m sure this team and the new facility will generate a lot of interest.”
From her perch at the home opener, Tamburrino watches her daughter, number 14 on the scoreboard, rack up double- digit points and rebounds.
She marvels at halftime when 13 Roosevelt Lakerettes take turns doing backflips across the court that has a large Lakers logo in the center and the name “The Patti Eylar and Charles Gardner Court” near the sideline.
She hears the voice of Danny Carlino, who previously announced Lakers volleyball and soccer, calling plays for this season’s Lakers basketball games, which are also broadcast live on Roosevelt’s student radio station, WRBC.
And those young men standing on the bleachers, their bare chests each sporting a single green letter that taken together spells G-O-L-A-K-E-R-S — well, neither Tamburrino nor anyone in attendance for that historic game missed seeing them.
As the crowd yells “shoot,” and then, at a miss of the hoop, begins chanting “defense, de-fense, de-fense,” a Loop L train on the Wabash Avenue tracks happens to glide past the gymnasium’s windows on the second floor.
“Hopefully it’ll throw our opponents off when they’re out there shooting free throws,” a Lakers fan sitting in the same section as Tamburrino said in jest.
Actually, there is more to the passing of an L train that can be seen from inside the field house, just as there is more to fans climbing stairs that can be seen from the street through the facility’s signature two-story glass entryway.
It’s all about an emphasis on movement, something the architect aimed to capture in the building design, and something that the director of athletics at Roosevelt is counting on going forward.
“We’re going places with this new building,” said Athletics Director Mike Cassidy, whose signature phrases continue to be “Go Lakers” and “Go green, go white, fight, fight, fight.”
“It legitimizes our program. It’s going to help us with recruitment. And it’s going to give us the momentum we need to build and grow the program for the future,” he said.
“It’s crazy to think that a year ago there was nothing there but a parking lot,” said Kyle Miklasz, a shooting guard with the Lakers men’s basketball team since 2010.
He and other pioneers on both the men’s and women’s athletic teams at Roosevelt have put up with long bus rides as well as practice and play in a lot of different, off-site, rented facilities for nearly three years for a chance to be part of history.
“To see the facility up and running like this – it’s amazing,” said Miklasz. “It’s great to finally have a place to call home.”
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