Inside Roosevelt University's new gym

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More than two years after re-establishing its athletic program, Roosevelt University finally has a facility to call home.

The school officially opened the Lillian and Larry Goodman Center on Saturday at the corner of Wabash Avenue and Congress Parkway. It's a 28,000-square-foot building that will host men's and women's basketball, volleyball and, eventually, various undergraduate intramural sports.

For the past two seasons, the Lakers, who joined the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 2010, have played basketball home games wherever they could find space, including IIT's Keating Center, Attack Athletics on the West Side and the UIC Physical Education Building, 901 W. Roosevelt Road.

Now, said athletic director Michael Cassidy, the groundwork is set to get Roosevelt sports moving.

"It's the epicenter of building a community here," said Mr. Cassidy, who has been instrumental in expanding the school's athletics to 12 teams after more than 20 years of dormancy and even wrote the school's fight song.

"It gives us a little bit of an edge and gives us prominence on one of the best street corners in Chicago."

The Lakers christened the new facility Saturday with a 69-60 victory over Trinity Christian in front of a capacity crowd (about 500 people) with the hope that it will serve as a rallying point for the school's more than 7,000 students.

More of them now live in Roosevelt's new 32-story, $123 millionĀ  vertical campus building at 425 S. Wabash Ave., which opened earlier this year to help the school establish a broader sense of community.

"It's another way to make people think every day that Roosevelt is more than just a place they go to school, it's their home," said Mr. Cassidy. "I always say sure, I want our students to be great and happy here now, but I want them 10 years from now when they're mowing the lawn to pull out their Roosevelt sweatshirt because they want their neighborhood to know that they're proud to be Roosevelt Lakers."

The Goodman Center could also help generate revenue for the school from corporate sponsorships, advertising and even renting it out to the public.

"There aren't many gyms like this in the heart of downtown," said Mr. Cassidy. "(We) have a place now where you can come and rent, have hardwood and a hoop and maybe play a game and continue to grow and expand opportunities for positive activities in Chicago."

A $3 million lead gift from the Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundation originally got the ball rolling on the $11 million project, which will also house the school's athletic administration offices on the first floor by late spring.

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