The week’s been circled in the Stuart Sports Complex logbook for a solid year.
Not because of the rubber-sole-melting heatwave, but for the 336-team soccer tournament set to play out this weekend at one of the Midwest’s most coveted outdoor athletic playgrounds.
Naperville-based Evolution Soccer Club’s Chicago Development Showcase represents the largest soccer tournament ever staged at Stuart. The three-day mega event starts today and features boys and girls divisions from U8 to U19, requiring 37 pitches sprawled across 380 acres of plush natural playing surface.
“This is the tournament’s fourth year and it’s grown exponentially since the start,” says Aaron Reinhart, the Fox Valley Park District’s athletics turf manager. “This week always comes with a bit of organized chaos.”
What happened when a New York-based creative studio called on Monday and asked if it could bring a crew of 20-25 – plus equipment, an RV, and a handful of tents – to scene-set Tuesday and shoot footage with “hero athletes” to promote a new line of softball gear on Wednesday, say around sunset until however long it takes?
“We said, ‘C’mon out,’” Reinhart says. “’We’d love to have you.’”
The production team at Cment Studios found itself in a pickle Monday when its original filming location near O’Hare International Airport suddenly couldn’t accommodate. A location scout connected Elliot Petenbrink, Cment’s head of production, to Reinhart “and we felt welcomed right off the bat,” says Petenbrink. “For us, we’re constantly coming up with contingency plans and that’s really what this place offered us – Aaron had solutions for every problem we had. You can feel the pride that’s in this complex, and you can tell there’s a passionate crew behind it.”
The Cment team arrived from all corners of the country on Tuesday for setup and staging before the actual filming took place on Wednesday just after sunset, with the skyline over the rolling farmland to the west of Stuart awash in a peach-colored glow.
‘This place is incredible’
The scene was staged on Stuart’s Field B on the north end of the complex, the boom mics, spotlights, and sound mixer resembling a movie set.
“The place is incredible,” Petenbrink says of Stuart. “From my standpoint, and I’m the one who produced it, this is the best location we came across without going into a big stadium like Wrigley Field.
“We’re far enough away from road traffic and we don’t have to worry about trains rolling by or planes landing at O’Hare. Here, you’ve got the cicadas in the trees and that’s all we’re dealing with.”
Cment is producing content for a client in the sporting goods industry that develops and manufactures branded and licensed sports equipment for iconic sports brands.
The footage and stills collected at Stuart are intended for in-store promotions at a major chain of sporting goods stores in the United States, along with placements throughout the chain’s digital landscape to promote a new line of softball equipment and accessories.
“We were ready,” says Reinhart, pointing to his eight-person crew, which collectively designed, painted, and manicured the 37 soccer pitches at Stuart. That was in addition to 17 others across Fox Valley Park District properties, along with a flag football field, for affiliate use over the weekend. “The nice thing is we didn’t have to do anything out of the ordinary – and that’s a testament to the caliber of work these guys are doing. We’re all pointed in the same direction with the end goal of working efficiently to deliver the best product and on-field experience we possibly can. And that’s the reason we were able to accommodate a really cool request without any issue or disruption whatsoever.”
In the past year, alone, the Cment crew has been on-location for shoots in Hawaii, Miami, various MLB Spring Training sites, the MLB All-Star Game in Seattle, and Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, AZ.
“We do this all over the country,” Petenbrink says. “I just wish we could’ve found this place sooner.”