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Truth be told, all North Park folks are fans of Mike and Kathy Holmgren. Here’s the story (HT: Lukas):
Seahawks’ Holmgren has haven in lair of the Bears
Full story: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/seahawks/2003524558_northpark14.html
By Greg Bishop
Seattle Times staff reporter
CHICAGO — At the corner of Foster and Albany, north of downtown Chicago, rests a brick sign with fading gold letters. It reads: Holmgren Athletic Complex.
Cars are parallel parked on a nearby street. Four display bumper stickers supporting the hometown football team. This is Chicago Bears country, after all.
Or is it? Another sign outside North Park University contributes to confusion. “Go Bears. Go Seahawks. We support you both.”
Folks at North Park are torn this week. Torn between two football teams bent on bouncing each other out of the NFL playoffs starting at 10 a.m. today. Torn between two families, the Holmgrens and the McCaskeys, owners of the Bears.
“We’re very fortunate as a small school,” said Sue Gost, director of university events. “We’re like Seattle Pacific with two NFL connections. You can’t quantify what they’re worth. But this week, this is football.”
Gost finds herself smack in the middle of alliances. A Bears pennant hangs in her office only a few feet from a picture of the Holmgrens, who own two buildings in the neighborhood and double as her landlord.
She holds two club-level tickets to the game. Asked what she’s going to wear, Gost responds only with “layers.”
Normally, it would be easy for a university in Chicago to pull for the hometown team. But the Holmgrens’ ties to North Park date back almost as far the school itself. And it was established in 1891.
Kathy Holmgren’s grandfather served as pastor of the North Park Covenant Church, which is affiliated with the university. Her parents attended North Park, and she followed the tradition, as did all four Holmgren daughters and two sons-in-law. Kathy Holmgren also was named distinguished alumna this year, and her husband, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, holds an honorary degree.
“If a kid wants to get a diverse experience, right in a big city, and a good education, it’s a great little school,” Mike Holmgren said, before quipping, “expensive tuition, though.”
The McCaskey family also boasts two graduates of North Park, Barb and Brian. But the family can’t claim an athletic complex, evidenced in an e-mail Kathy Holmgren sent last week that reminded North Park it doesn’t have a McCaskey Field.
She was joking, but the Holmgren Athletic Complex illustrates her point. It stands out among the brick homes, a Marine Reserve Center and a bus depot.
There are scoreboards, lights, stands and a press box, along with fields for soccer, baseball, softball and football. FieldTurf runs underneath, same as at Qwest Field. The complex cost $4 million, and Gost said the Holmgrens donated the bulk of the money.
Down the street, on a manicured campus next to the Chicago River, is a new 68,000-square-foot recreation center the Holmgrens donated money toward. And there is the golf tournament the university runs each summer that benefits youth in the Albany Park area. Holmgren helped start the tournament, and the Bears coaches participate in it.
“The [Holmgrens] have an aura about them,” said Nicole Daniels, director of external relations for the university. “It sounds hokey, but our school mission statement is ‘preparing students for lives of significance and service.’ The Holmgrens embody that.”
The school dedicated the complex in October 2004. The church baptized one of Holmgren’s grandchildren, and Mike Holmgren sang a duet in church with one of his daughters.
Gost said Holmgren didn’t want publicity. He wanted to talk to students (there are about 3,200 at the school) and talk to football players. At a barbecue at the dedication, Holmgren spoke about the importance of education. His speech moved Gost nearly to tears.
On Friday morning, rain falls from an overcast sky outside of the Holmgren Athletic Complex, another slice of Seattle in Chicago. A few blocks down Foster Avenue, a Bears flag flaps from a front porch. Alliances torn, still, never more evident than this week.
“That’s because of the Holmgrens’ commitment to this neighborhood,” Gost said. “Coach always said we were good to his girls. And if you know coach, if you’re good to his girls, you’re OK.
“When they come here, it’s like they’re coming home.”
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or gbishop@seattletimes.com

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