ROGERS PARK — Loyola University's newest building — sure to be a student favorite — opened Wednesday on the school's lakeshore campus.
The Arnold J. Damen Student Center boasts pool tables, rock climbing walls, a 150-seat movie theater, restaurants and cafes, a dining hall and big screen TVs, accompanied by the latest video-game consoles.
The 100,000-square-foot building is the first of several construction projects Loyola expects to wrap up this year, including the renovated Loyola "L" station and plaza and a row of two-bedroom apartments on Albion Avenue.
At the same time, the Jesuit university is exploring plans to turn the empty lot on the southwest corner of Albion Avenue and Sheridan Road into a boutique hotel under a lease agreement with an outside developer.
University President Michael Garanzini said he hopes the new student center would be a hit with the school's 16,000 students.
"This building will be the hub of social activity on campus," he said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the three-floor center Wednesday.
The student center features several dining destinations, including the Damen Dining Hall and the Damen Food Court.
The rock-climbing wall and the movie theater, showing feature films like "The Hobbit," extend from the basement through the first floor.
A pub-style sports lounge, outfitted with big-screen TVs, can be found on the basement level.
The building is connected to the Ramblers' Gentile Arena.