I moved to Chicago in the summer of 2004. Coincidentally, a month after I arrived I received an e-mail from the Alumni Association. The note went to Chicago-area Ducks in an effort to establish a Chicago chapter of the UOAA. I went to that initial meeting and there were 8 people there. We agreed that finding a place to watch Ducks Football was the top priority.
We settled on a bar called "Joe's", a massive warehouse of a sports bar with 100+ TVs. The manager at Joe's gave us the VIP room for our first game vs. Indiana (though we had to share it with the Hoosiers crowd). I nearly jumped off a bridge into the nearby Chicago River at halftime, but otherwise had a good time with about 20 other Ducks. But after that first game, we were out of the VIP room and into the back corner, with the crappy small TV and no audio. We had 10-20 people show up each week that season, and around the same numbers in 2005.
In 2006, our intrepid leader Drew was contacted by the manager of a neighborhood bar called Witt's. The owner had just remodeled the place and put in new TVs, and he was looking for a couple of college teams to "adopt". He wanted teams that did not already have a dedicated “home” in Chicago (ruling out Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State, etc.), so he picked Purdue from the Big 10 and contacted their alumni chapter. He also wanted a Pac 10 team to get the afternoon crowd (West Coast games start a few hours later than Big 10 games), and after some research he learned that there are 500+ Oregon alums in Chicagoland. He also knew we had a strong football program, so he reached out to Drew and invited him to bring the Ducks to Witt's.
That first game in 2006 against Stanford, I wandered into the bar and was shocked to see a crowd of 30+ quacker backers on hand, and the Ducks game on 4 different screens with surround-sound audio. WAAAAAAY better situation than the dark corners of Joe's. The Ducks started that season on fire, and the crowds got bigger every week. We probably had 50+ folks pack that place for the wild Oklahoma game. Drew brought a big green OREGON flag and it now hangs outside Witt's. They also play an MP3 of "Mighty Oregon" after touchdowns and victories.
Last year we kept up the momentum, attracting 30-50 Oregon fans to Witt's for every game until the season unraveled. We only had about 15 people for the UCLA and Oregon State games and the Sun Bowl. Hopefully this year will be a packed house for every game (saying a prayer that ESPN Gameplan gets the broadcast rights) of a 13-0 season (hey, why not?).
I dropped by Witt's for a Ducks basketball game a few months ago, and I noticed some new remodeling including a big sign that features the "O" logo painted above the beer list. Also new booths, and a new beer cooler behind the bar. I guess they made so much coin off the Duck fans that they could afford to fix up the place even more!
In short, we've gone from 8 people in the dark corner of Joe's with fuzzy picture and no sound, to 50 people in a nice new bar with good food and drink, the Ducks game on several TVs and full audio, and the flag flying outside and the fight song playing inside. Needless to say, we love Witt's!
Final thought: Given that we share Witt's with the Purdue crowd, we REALLY need Oregon to knock off the Boilermakers on September 13 so we can have bragging rights for the rest of the season.