Gurnee to open ‘The Wall’, a theater-turned-giant sports bar to watch March Madness matches

GURNEE, Ill. (WLS) — It truly is March Madness. The first day of the NCAA Tournament falls on St. Patrick’s Day.

After struggling during the pandemic for the past two years, it’s the type of crowd that puts a smile on the face of bar and restaurant owners.

“It’s like Christmas when you have the NCAA and St. Pat’s at the same time,” said Tim Borden of Ala Carte Entertainment.

There may be a few people at Finn McCools in Schaumburg who are supposed to be at work instead of watching basketball.

Beth O’Donnell, who cheers for the Iowa Hawkeyes in the tournament, said she was legit.

“I also took today and tomorrow off,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a two-day party.”

Whether they’re at the bar or at work, a recent study suggests that 48% of workers make their NCAA slices at work, and March Madness is costing American businesses an estimated $2.4 billion per hour in lost productivity. That’s over $16 billion for the entire tournament.

RELATED: How Companies Can Encourage Workplace Productivity During March Madness Games

But one workplace expert said given today’s competition for quality employees, companies should embrace the tournament.

At Gurnee, they are putting the finishing touches on a huge new concept for watching games after converting a theater into a giant sports bar, complete with a 40ft screen, comfy recliners and a full bar and food menu. They plan to add them to many of the 90 Marcus Theaters in the Midwest.

“It’s different from a theater because the lights are kinda on, you can talk to your friends – it’s not like a movie where you sit quietly,” said Greg Marcus, CEO of Marcus Theaters.

They plan to open it year round, but they were rushing to get it ready for March Madness. In fact, they’re expecting big crowds for Friday’s Illinois and Loyola games.

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