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DNC Opens Large Sports Merchandise Store in Chicago

Delaware North Companies has developed and begun operating a new retail store, the Chicago Sports Depot, adjacent to U.S. Cellular Field for the Chicago White Sox. The company’s Sportservice division operates retail services and food concessions for the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.

The store, said to be one of the largest of its kind at any professional sports stadium, is designed to be a one-stop shopping destination for fans of Chicago’s professional and regional college teams, including the White Sox, Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks and Cubs as well as the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame and several other colleges.

“The goal is to be the best sports merchandise and apparel store in the country,” says Joe Nigro, the store's general manager. “As soon as they walk in the door, we want them to be wowed and to carry that feeling of awe throughout the store.”

The 12,000-sq.ft. venue was developed through a close collaboration between Delaware North and the White Sox, with RGLA Solutions of Chicago serving as the project designer as well as the interior architect, and 360 Architecture of Kansas City as the exterior architect. McHugh Construction of Chicago was the general contractor. The Delaware North Companies Facilities Department oversaw the project as a liaison between the White Sox, Delaware North staff, RGLA and subcontractors.

From conception to opening, the project took 13 months, with the concept design approved by the White Sox in October 2010. Construction began last April and the two-level store celebrated its grand opening on November 20. It is now open daily.

“I think this store sets the example and the tone for where we are going to go in the future,” says Sportservice Vice President of Retail Jeff Hess. “With projects like the Chicago Sports Depot, we are making a mark in the industry.”

The merchandise includes such brands as Nike, New Era, Majestic, Reebok and Banner 47 and includes niche items like tie racks, shoe trees, leather briefcases and shaving bags as well as memorabilia autographed by Chicago sport stars. There is also a home, garden and automotive section and fans can purchase unique items such as White Sox logo yoga mats and White Sox blankets featuring Mickey Mouse. In addition, the store features a custom screen printing and jersey area.

Twenty points of sale make it easy for fans to find exclusive products and still check out quickly.

The signature element of Chicago Sports Depot is a digital staircase featuring 15,000 LED lights. Developed in collaboration with RGLA and Phillips Color Kinetics Division, it can play sports-related video images as customers move to and from the second level and is believed to be the only staircase of its kind in North America.

To ensure fans do not miss a single play of any game, the Chicago Sports Depot features 75 video monitors, including four video walls. The store’s flow was carefully considered to give guests a fluid shopping experience from one section to the next. Glass hand railings and a glass elevator allow guests to see the monitors from every vantage point in the store.

The store entry at 35th Street features atrium space that soars to 40 feet in height. The first floor ceilings are 20 feet tall. A 14-foot ceiling on the upper floor with exposed structure allows for the maximum visual height. The store is accessible from either the outside or inside the stadium on game days.

The Chicago Sports Depot was designed to current “green” building standards with a focus on energy efficiency. Many of the materials used are indigenous to the Chicago area, as are the plants that cover 75 percent of the building’s roof in an irrigation planter system. Along with the white roof, the plants help prevent heat absorption to reduce air conditioning usage. They also absorb rainwater that would otherwise reach city sewer lines and require treatment.

Large-format interior wall graphics featuring current and former star players and scenes from White Sox and other teams’ championships were produced using a 3M Controlotac Graphic Film with pressure-sensitive adhesive that was applied to the walls in a fashion similar to a decal. The murals were created by RGLA and the White Sox.

Reproductions of front-page newspaper stories were incorporated onto the walls to recreate the local excitement of past championships. A display of White Sox logos allows customers to connect with the team through memories of various eras.

The attention to detail extends into every space of the store, including the bathroom, where a catcher’s mask light fixture is installed. The custom-designed floor is made of concrete with an epoxy coating for a glossy finish that makes it durable and easy to maintain. White baseball stitching was added using a vinyl template to give the floor a signature look.

Video highlighting Chicago Sports Depot can be viewed on Delaware North’s YouTube channel.

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