By MATTHEW BLAKE
Roosevelt University is planning to build a new athletic field house on the corner of Congress Parkway and Wabash Avenue in the South Loop, the school announced last month.
It’s the second major construction project that indicates the school’s transition to a more traditional college — just last year Roosevelt brought back intercollegiate athletics after a 20-year hiatus.
“We were a commuter place over the last 25 years,” said Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton. “As we began to recruit more younger students, they wanted more intramural sports and then they wanted intercollegiate athletics.”
The 27,834-square-foot athletic field house is slated to open before the 2012-13 school year — just a few months after Roosevelt’s 32-story “Vertical Campus” is supposed to open at 425 S. Wabash Ave.
Roosevelt’s growth — University President Chuck Middleton said that he wants to double the school’s 7,500 enrollment by 2017 — has always played a part in the Loop and South Loop’s development boom over the last 15 years. But now the university is one of the few sources of downtown development in a stalled real estate market.
“We like that the university is growing and investing in downtown,” said Noah Temaner Jenkins, president of Friends of Downtown. “There’s plenty of room.”
Middleton said that the field house “will make Roosevelt the only university in the South Loop that has recreational facilities on campus.”
Jenkins said that she hopes neighbors will be able to use the facilities, though a decision on community access has not yet been made.
The field house will be named the Goodman Center after Skokie-based philanthropist Larry Goodman, who donated $3 million of the athletic center’s $5 million price tag.
Goodman, who made much of his money in real estate with the firm American Asset Management Services, chose to make this the first gift that The Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundation have provided to a Chicago area university.
“An athletic complex was lacking at the university and there were students that might have considered enrolling except that there was no athletic facility,” Goodman said.
Founded in 1946, most students who have enrolled at Roosevelt are first-generation college attendees. Middleton estimated that 75 percent of the current student body is first generation.
Roosevelt has mainly been a commuter school and also has a satellite campus in Schaumburg. But the school’s impact on the downtown grew in the late 1990s with the creation of the University Center, at 525 S. State St., which provides student housing for Roosevelt, DePaul, and Columbia students.
Several institutions expanded student residencies then, creating the one of the largest concentrations of college students in the country. About 60,000 college students live in the Loop.
“I live on Congress and Dearborn,” Jenkins said, “and when I moved here in 1997, it was a ghost town. Now there are more restaurants and stores and that is partly because of university expansion.”
Roosevelt, though, has especially grown, selling its presence in the middle of a rapidly developing downtown.
In 2009 came the rebirth of the athletic program, with the school expected to have twelve varsity sports by 2014. And in March 2012, the Vertical Campus will replace the 19-floor Herman Crown Center and feature classrooms, student services and teacher’s beds.
The campus should be open by March 2012, “on time and on budget,” according to Middleton. The building cost about $118 million in money raised from a bond sale and Middleton said the financing should be paid off in 2044.
Middleton said that after completion of the building, Roosevelt would house about 950 students, and predicted that about “400 or so other students would look to the private market downtown.”
As for doubling the university’s enrollment, Middleton said that the Chicago campus could work successfully, “with about 30-40 percent more enrollment than we currently have.” The rest of the enrollment increase would come from the Schaumburg campus and, possibly, students enrolled online.
430 S. Michigan Ave.Chicago, IL 60605(312) 341-3500
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1400 N. Roosevelt Blvd.Schaumburg, IL 60173(847) 619-7300
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