PULL­MAN’S NEW ‘FIELD OF DREAMS’ Mam­moth $20M com­mu­nity cen­ter, with sports and ed­u­ca­tion fa­cil­i­ties, opens doors af­ter nearly a decade in the works

Open­ing of $20M sports fa­cil­ity in Pull­man brings bea­con of prom­ise to kids on Greater South Side

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - BY FRAN SPIELMAN, CITY HALL RE­PORTER fspiel­man@sun­times.com | @fspiel­man

If ever there was a real-life field of dreams, it opened in Pull­man Thurs­day, cour­tesy of lo­cal Ald. An­thony Beale (9th).

Af­ter nearly a decade of plan­ning and a fren­zied round of cor­po­rate fundrais­ing, a $20 mil­lion, 135,000-square­foot sports, re­cre­ation and ed­u­ca­tional cen­ter opened its doors at 10355 S. Wood­lawn.

The mas­sive U.S. Bank Pull­man Com­mu­nity Cen­ter is one of the largest in­door sports fa­cil­i­ties in Illi­nois. It in­cludes three bas­ket­ball/ten­nis courts and three syn­thetic turf fields that can be used for base­ball, foot­ball and soc­cer. The fa­cil­ity also in­cludes com­mu­nity meet­ing rooms and class­room space.

“We’re look­ing at keep­ing 1,100 kids a week off the streets, do­ing some­thing pos­i­tive and con­struc­tive. A fa­cil­ity that’s gonna be open prob­a­bly 12 to 14 hours a day. That gives peo­ple op­por­tu­nity. It gives ’em hope,” Beale said Thurs­day.

“If you’re strug­gling in school and you’re en­rolled in this fa­cil­ity, we’re gonna pro­vide free ACT, SAT and tu­tor­ing in what­ever sub­ject that you need.”

When Beale was grow­ing up play­ing base­ball, he was forced to play on choppy, rock-filled, sub­stan­dard fields.

The same thing hap­pened when he coached his own son. They had to trek to sub­ur­ban Lisle at 10 p.m. on a school night just to get some in­door work in dur­ing the cold win­ter months.

“I was like, if I’m in a po­si­tion [to help], let me try and do some­thing to change that, [so] kids can come to our com­mu­nity in­stead of trav­el­ing out­side the com­mu­nity. Why can’t we have it here? Ev­ery­body else has it. Why not us?” the alderman said.

Thurs­day’s cer­e­mo­nial rib­bon-cut­ting was more like a pep rally cel­e­brat­ing Beale’s decade­long cru­sade.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel played a piv­otal role in per­suad­ing cor­po­ra­tions to con­tribute to the fa­cil­ity.

But the mayor said the spot­light be­longs to Beale, who turned a va­cant pile of dirt into a bea­con of hope for the kids of Pull­man, Rose­land and the Greater South Side — and he re­called that day when the alderman first showed him the site.

“I said, ‘An­thony, I have been with you on the Whole Foods dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter from In­di­ana. I’ve been with you on the Method fac­tory that was go­ing to Bat­tle Creek and we brought it here. The Wal­mart fa­cil­ity. The Gotham Green fa­cil­ity. … [But] this one is a lit­tle far for me,” Emanuel said.

“But this is a clas­sic case of a field of dreams. If you build it, they will come. … If you look at the crowd here, it’s ei­ther got to be re­ally cold out there and you can’t find any­place else warm. Or there’s some­thing re­ally spe­cial hap­pen­ing in Pull­man and Rose­land. Pull­man and Rose­land are ris­ing.”

The mayor added: “You have to have some­body just crazy enough to look at a dirt field ... and have a vi­sion. ... Kids can­not be what they can­not see. They used to drive by and see a dirt field. Noth­ing. Empty. Years. And they in­ter­nal­ize that. Now, they’re gonna in­ter­nal­ize, ‘That’s where I go af­ter school. That’s where I go this sum­mer. That’s where I go to get a tu­tor. That’s where I go get my en­tire com­mu­nity that cares about me.’ ”

Although the cen­ter was built with­out city money, it would not have been pos­si­ble with­out a $2 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion from the Chicago Hous­ing Au­thor­ity. In ex­change, 10 per­cent of all slots will be free to CHA res­i­dents, Beale said.

New mar­ket tax cred­its, bor­row­ing that left a $2.5 mil­lion mort­gage and cor­po­rate largesse also pro­vided gi­ant pieces of the puz­zle.

Those do­na­tions in­cluded U.S. Bank, which do­nated the land where the cen­ter was built ($6 mil­lion); Ford Mo­tor Co. ($2.5 mil­lion); Ex­elon ($1 mil­lion); the Cubs ($500,000), and the Bears (roughly $300,000).

“My son tells me all the time he wished I would have [done] this when he was in Lit­tle League. Now, he’s help­ing me coach,” Beale said Thurs­day.

“I never thought it would take this long. It’s just un­be­liev­able to see it come to fruition.”

KEVIN TANAKA/FOR THE SUN TIMES

The U.S. Bank Pull­man Com­mu­nity Cen­ter is one of the largest in­door sports fa­cil­i­ties in the state.

KEVIN TANAKA/PHO­TOS FOR THE SUN TIMES

Peo­ple play soc­cer Thurs­day at the new U.S. Bank Pull­man Com­mu­nity Cen­ter.

In ad­di­tion to in­door sports fields, the Pull­man Com­mu­nity Cen­ter has a place for peo­ple to get snacks (left) as well as space for meet­ings and tu­tor­ing (right).

Ald. An­thony Beale

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