BC alumni find home bar in Chicago

CHICAGO -- Trinity Bar general manager Megan Collins assumed she'd have 20, maybe 30, Boston College football fans gather at 11 a.m. to watch the Eagles take on Clemson on Sept. 19.

Unlike may of the bars in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Trinity Bar had never been associated with a college. It had a few Notre Dame pennants and a jersey hanging on its walls, but that had more to do with its ties to the owner's Irish-American nationality than anything else. The management had always preferred to be neutral on a college game day.

But the fact that a member of the Chicago Chapter of the Boston College Alumni Association sought the bar out for this game was different, so Collins decided to give it a try. She even had a few Boston College game-day menus and a couple dozen Eagles plastic cups made for the occasion.

On that Saturday morning, a few people wearing Boston College gear trickled in, then a few more, then a whole group, and soon it was out of control. Within a few hours, there were nearly 200 BC supporters packing the three-level bar on Halsted Avenue. The bouncer was bartending, a Boston College fan was checking IDs, all the Notre Dame pieces had been removed or covered by Boston College items, beer was restocked constantly, burgers were flying off the grill, and Collins was smiling.

"Boston College kind of said, 'We think we can bring a crowd,'" Collins said. "We really didn't think it was going to be a big thing. We were floored. It was wall-to-wall Boston College fans. I had no idea there were that many Eagles fans in Chicago. I was shocked."

Just like that, Trinity Bar became the headquarters for Boston College fans in Chicago.

Now every Saturday, there's a separate iPod that has on it the Dropkick Murphys and Boston College-related songs, 500 plastic cups are made each week, three bartenders are serving with a fourth on call, there are two waitresses and a doorman, and everything Notre Dame-related has been permanently removed. Once, the bar even brought in the Emerald Society, a Chicago police bagpipes-and-drums group, to play.

"It was hysterical," Collins said. "They started playing the Boston College fight song, and everyone went wild. … I'm learning more about Boston College than I ever thought I would."

The success is a surprise even to Jeff Nonnenkamp, the Boston College alum who initially approached Trinity Bar. As the Alumni Association's game-watch coordinator, he was in charge of finding a new place for Boston College fans to attend. Their last location just didn't suit everyone.

"Everyone wanted some place bigger, more centrally located," said Nonnenkamp, who graduated from BC in 2005. "We had Trinity on our list. They didn't have an affiliation. It's a tough gig if you're not from Ohio State, Michigan, even Indiana. It's a tough deal to find somewhere.

"It really clicked with Trinity. It totally blew me away. It was great to see that kind of support. That makes me feel pretty confident that we can keep things going. We're not a huge alumni group, but we tend support our teams pretty well."

Collins has even become a Boston College football fan herself.

"Of course I want them to win," she said. "If they win, they keep drinking to celebrate."

Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at spowers@espnchicago.com.