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Kapos: Wintrust was also in the running for Sox park’s name

Ed Wehmer, president and CEO of Wintrust Financial | Provided photo

Guaranteed Rate wasn’t the only company considered for naming rights of U.S. Cellular Field. Wintrust Financial also talked to White Sox management.

Imagine fans’ glee at seeing “win” and “trust” in the name.

“We said we’d think about it and then they cut a deal (with Guaranteed Rate),” Wintrust Financial CEO Ed Wehmer said, in acknowledging discussions for naming rights. “There are no hard feelings.”

Guaranteed Rate is a local mortgage lending company known for its big, red down arrow. CEO Victor Ciardelli III hopes the idea of pitchers’ ERAs dropping comes to mind when fans see that arrow.

Wintrust Financial, meanwhile, remains the official bank of the Chicago White Sox and the Chicago Cubs.

Wehmer says a big ballpark probably doesn’t fit his company’s M.O. “Putting our name on a big stadium with a major league might be bad luck,” he says. Consider Sports Authority Field in Colorado. After the company went bankrupt, the Broncos are trying to end the sponsorship.

It also rubs Wintrust’s small-town sensibilities.

“We like being the kind of bank where customers can call with a question and we know who you are,” says Wehmer.

Wehmer was a CPA when he created the community bank some 25 years ago. He hatched the idea at a card table with David Dykstra, now Wintrust’s chief operating officer and treasurer, and Richard Murphy, the chief credit officer. Beer and cigars were involved.

Wintrust is based in Rosemont, has assets of about $25 billion and has banks in nearly 50 communities, including Chicago.

“We started because we wanted to be a local alternative to big banks,” says Wehmer, a gregarious man who with his wife has six children and enjoys a game of golf now and again. “And then we got big.”

Just not big enough for a major league ballpark, apparently.

‘Empire’ star opens theater house in Rogers Park

Antoine McKay has opened a theater house in Rogers Park. | Shia Kapos/For the Sun-Times
Antoine McKay has opened a theater house in Rogers Park. | Shia Kapos/For the Sun-Times

Antoine McKay, who played a pivotal character in season one of “Empire,” has opened a theater house in Rogers Park.

The McKay theater company has moved into 1439 West Jarvis Avenue, a storefront in a building owned by billionaire Jennifer Pritzker. It’s been home for years to Side Project theater, which is transitioning into a traveling company.

“I’m really happy to be in Rogers Park. It’s the most diverse part of the city and that’s what we’re about,” he says. Along with theater productions, the McKay will offer drama and screen-writing classes, which he hopes Amazon might pick up.

Amazon is streaming a show McKay has written and stars in. “Written Off” is about two recently out-of-work journalists from the fictional Chicago Truth newspaper.

McKay leased the theater company location with Chicago-area performer Tony Lawry. The two studied theater together at Eastern Michigan University.

McKay went on to perform on The Second City’s main stage from 1997 to 2003 before landing roles on TV – including on “Detroit 1-8-7,” “Sports Action Team” and “E.R.” He was a mainstay on commercials, the most notable being a funny one for American Airlines. McKay played a sports agent traveling the world trying to get a team to sign his socially awkward basketball playing client. Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, was featured in it, too.

But McKay’s biggest break came when he signed on to play Bunkie on “Empire.” The character was murdered, and McKay says he’s often recognized around town by people still upset at his character’s untimely death.

That the show filmed in Chicago also was a big plus for McKay, 46. He lives in Evanston with his actress wife, Rebecca McKay, and their blended family of six children.

Chicago singer brings down the house with Bush lyrics

Chicago singer Shelley MacArthur
Chicago singer Shelley MacArthur

Chicago singer Shelley MacArthur is just back from Kennebunkport, Maine, where she performed a song she wrote in honor of her friends, former president George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara.

The former first couple wasn’t able to attend the performance at Vinegar Hill Music Theatre, an old-school musical playhouse that’s been refurbished. So MacArthur sent the Bushes the lyrics she penned to the melody of “I’ve Got a Lot of Living to Do,” from the “Bye, Bye Birdie” musical.

MacArthur and her husband, Chicago businessman Bill Farley, and the Bushes are vacation-home neighbors in Kennebunkport.

MacArthur brought the house down with her lyrics:

“So what’s next, super jet pilot? Time to jump, again from the blue?

We all know — you’re no shrinking violet. You sure got lots of livin’ to do.

Colored socks, and not eating broccoli — make you more, far more than a chump,

Though we know your preference of party, you still can’t . . . stomach voting for Trump.”

MacArthur is a former model and active on Chicago’s civic scene, often performing at fundraising events for nonprofits. A favorite is the Joffrey Ballet.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.