The business of football goes far beyond the gridiron, as the Chicago Bears learned when they hired Richard Preves & Associates to expand Halas Hall, its Lake Forest training facility. “The NFL has changed over the years. It’s much more marketing-driven, much more branding-driven than before,” said firm president Richard Preves.
The expansion added 32,000 square feet to the 100,000-square-foot structure and remodeled more than 40,000 square feet of the interior. Much of that is new office space, in response to the growing demand for marketing, branding, and community outreach positions that have become the norm in professional football. The centerpiece of the expansion is a three-story lobby dubbed The Midway, which is replete with Bears memorabilia. The architects hired Chicago Scenic Studios to help design three 8-foot-tall computer displays with access to the team’s archives, which date back to the franchise’s founding in 1920.
The space is not open to the public, unless they are invited by The Bears administration. Preves said some participants who have joined the team in a recent push to expand volunteerism have visited since the project’s completion earlier this year. Corporate partners like Nike take advantage of the new event room for meetings, as well as a skybox that overlooks the practice area. The archives also help the team woo prospective players.
Light pours through a double-height eastern-facing window in the new weight room. “Players tend to lift and work out in the morning,” said Preves. A glassy staircase connecting the multiple levels of the Midway also conveys light. “We’re trying to bring as much light and transparency from up above to down below.” Almost every room received updated technology—namely video teleconferencing equipment, and internet connectivity improvements for use by sports journalists, staff, and NFL representatives.