Loyola plans to break ground on a new $18.5 million practice facility for the Loyola basketball and volleyball teams in April.
The two-story building will sit between Mertz Residence Hall and Norville Center for Intercollegiate Athletics. Each floor will have a NCAA regulation-size basketball court running north to south and two volleyball courts running east to west.
Most of the facility’s $18.5 million cost will be funded by a donation from Al Norville. At a community meeting in December, Kana Henning, Loyola’s associate vice president for facilities, said the rest of the cost will be covered by $1-2 million of university capital.
The facility will be named the Alfie Norville Practice Facility, after Al’s wife, according to a press release.
Loyola president Jo Ann Rooney said the facility will continue to improve Loyola’s campus and thanked Norville for his donation.
“We are deeply grateful to Al Norville for his generous support,” Rooney said in a press release. “Al and Alfie’s commitment to the university and to our students continues Loyola’s leadership in athletics and academics and furthers our goal to create a vibrant, sustainable campus environment that fosters an engaged and well-rounded educational experience.”
The athletics department has known for some time a new facility was needed, according to Henning, who oversees all construction projects on Loyola’s three Chicago campuses. Plans for the facility started when the athletics department received a donation to start a feasibility study — an assessment of how practical a new project is — for the facility.
The teams have been practicing in Halas Recreation Center, according to Loyola officials. Halas is the fitness center used by the general Loyola community.
“For many years, athletics has been appealing for a new practice facility,” Henning said. “However, in about the spring of 2016, they were able to find a donor to help fund the early conceptual design process.”
After the initial feasibility study, Loyola began an architectural design competition for the project. The school reached out to seven design firms, and four architects submitted designs, according to Henning.
In fall 2016, Loyola selected RDG Planning and Design to lead the project. RDG referred all questions regarding the design of the facility back to Loyola administration.
The facility will be similarly designed to the Norville Center but will cut 40 feet from Sean Earl Field, a representative from RDG said at the December community meeting. The design will also include exposed brick meant as a tribute to Loyola’s Alumni Gym, which closed after the 1995-96 season.
Since moving from the Horizon League to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in 2013, Loyola has tried to continue competing against the other schools in the conference. The facility is another step in being competitive in the MVC, according to athletics director Steve Watson.
“This facility will bring us closer to practice space parity with our fellow Missouri Valley Conference institutions, increasing our competitiveness, improving our recruitment and enhancing our athletics program,” Watson said in a press release.
Because the proposed facility site is within the Lakefront Protection zone, a strip of land which runs from Lake Michigan to the first alley west of Sheridan Road. All potential construction projects within the zone must be approved to protect Chicago’s lakefront. Plans had to be approved by the Lakefront protection commission, in addition to the Chicago Plan Commission and City Council. After a year of finishing the design, Loyola submitted the plans to Alderman Joe Moore of the 49th ward and the Lakefront Protection Commission.
“Loyola is like any other private property owner, we’re not allowed to do whatever we want,” Jennifer Clark, associate vice president of Capital Planning, said. “There are lots of checks on anyone who wants to build a building — Lakefront protection is one, zoning is another. The city approves all of those things.”
Clark has to navigate all moving pieces and help Henning and the architects meet all the necessary requirements.
“My job is to negotiate all the different [approvals],” Clark said. “We aren’t going to get the plan commission’s support without Alderman Moore’s support, we aren’t going to get Alderman Moore’s support without community support.”
The process of getting plans approved can take time and has no set timetable, but things are coming along well, according to Clark.
“[It’s going] really well, the only real hurdle we’re going to have is Lakefront protection and the plan commission,” Clark said. “By hurdle I mean they haven’t happened yet and Alderman Moore hasn’t given his written support for the project yet.”
The project is scheduled to start in April and is expected to be finished by July 2019.