LAKE IN THE HILLS – What started as a basement remodel to create the ultimate place to watch Cubs games has turned into a nonprofit that’s raised more than $163,000 for local Cubs fans in need.
Lake in the Hills resident Stewart McVicar’s events for Club 400 draw crowds of more than 200 people to the residential Henry Lane – and the village of Lake in the Hills has taken notice.
“The village originally became aware of this entity though local media publications and advertisement,” Lake in the Hills Village Administrator Jennifer Clough said. “At that point in time, staff identified that this was seemingly an unregistered business that was operating within the village from the improved basement of a home on Henry Lane.”
Since then, the village has asked McVicar to make a handful of changes for his summer events – one that was held June 24, and another scheduled for July 18.
After McVicar met with village staff, Lake in the Hills President Russ Ruzanski, the village attorney and representatives from the state liquor commission and the Huntley Fire Protection District in May, he has made several changes to his organization.
Club 400 now is a registered nonprofit, and McVicar has obtained necessary insurance for his events, applied for liquor licensing and submitted the appropriate building permit application and materials for his basement buildout, according to village documents. McVicar also was asked to request noise waivers for his events, and restrict parking to one side of the street in his neighborhood during his events.
McVicar said the organization naturally evolved, and before village officials approached him, McVicar said didn't know he needed to work with the village to hold events out of his basement.
“I was like, ‘I’m throwing a part and raising money.’ That’s all I thought,” McVicar said. “I didn’t realize there’s more to it that meets the eye, I was a little naive in that respect.”
The changes the village asked McVicar to make will only better his organization, he said.
Since 2014, McVicar has had about 10 events in his Cubs-themed basement. While the outside of his home blends in with the rest of his neighborhood, the basement stands out.
Club 400 features a bar, extensive collection of Cubs memorabilia – including items from McVicar’s childhood – gaming areas, movie theater-style seating and multiple TVs to watch Cubs games on. Some of McVicar’s displayed items include the ticket from his first Cubs home game, a base from the 100-year anniversary of the team, an authentic piece of the Wrigley foul pole, a life-size Anthony Rizzo bobblehead and plenty of signed bats, balls and jerseys.
At fundraisers, the public can buy tickets to see the Club 400 basement and meet people associated with the Cubs.
McVicar's first event, held in 2014, featured Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, and was a fundraiser for McVicar's friend Nick Sheridan, who needed prosthetic limbs after losing parts of his legs and arms to bacterial meningitis.
McVicar first connected with Ricketts at a Cubs convention. When McVicar left photos of his Cubs-themed basement on a table Ricketts was sitting at, Ricketts asked McVicar if he could see the basement.
McVicar’s latest event in June featured Cubs Hall of Fame member Ryne Sandberg. Ricketts is scheduled to come to the July 18 event, which will benefit Marengo teen Logan Vallee, who recently underwent a heart transplant.
At first, Ruzanski said he was surprised to learn about the organization operating in the village without his knowledge.
“Upon further review of this, and [because of the] fact that he has come into compliance and everything – we’re happy to have him here in the village,” Ruzanski said.
Ruzanski said McVicar will have to pay for all fees associated with his basement buildout, but he did not receive any other fines.
Lake in the Hills Police Chief David Brey said the police department had received one complaint about partying from a neighbor during to one of McVicar's events.
McVicar said for his latest event, he passed out fliers to his neighbors notifying them of the event. He also has tried to work more with local businesses – Lake in the Hills-based Alfredo's catered his latest event.
"There’s a lot of people talking about Lake in the Hills and these events I’m having and the good that we’ve caused," McVicar said. "And I kind of just want to continue the trend and be a good neighbor."
Although McVicar's organization has grown quickly in the past three years, he said because of the uniqueness of having these events out of his basement, he plans to stay there, rather than move to a larger venue, and limit events to about two per year.
Club 400's goal is to raise $1 million, McVicar said, and he hopes to be a quarter of the way there by the end of this summer.
“To me, it’s an honor to throw these events,” McVicar said. “I always get excited about all of them. They’re a lot of work, they are, but they’re rewarding.”