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Inside 'The Zoo': Barstool Sports' New Chicago Office Marries Work And Play

Chicago Office

Barstool Sports content creator Hank Lockwood describes the company's atmosphere as a zoo, and if that's the case, Clune Construction has built the sometimes controversial sports podcasting company a fitting enclosure.

The two-story office space, which opened this past fall, is as much a playground as an office. The company, headquartered in New York, has moved into a new 39K SF building at 400 N. Noble St. just west of Fulton Market, part of an expansion of what Lockwood affectionately calls the “content factory.”

Barstool Sports' basketball court

The custom office space includes a basketball court, golf simulator and commercial kitchen as well as broadcast and podcast studios and a series of offices. Construction started in May and finished late last year.

The building was formerly a packaging and production building, and Lockwood estimated the project cost about $20M. 

"It's a zoo," Lockwood said. "We made it that. That's good. That's what we want."

Barstool Sports' Pardon My Take recording studio

Lockwood and fellow Pardon My Take Host Dan "Big Cat" Katz were heavily involved in designing the layout of the office, making sure amenities like the basketball court and workout area also doubled as spots for the company to create content, Lockwood said.

Matt Wozniakowski, a project manager for Clune, said the company began work on the space in May and finished it in November. Clune did more structural work on the project than it would for a typical tenant improvement buildout, he said. 

"The basketball court, the golf simulator, the podcast rooms, all the AV equipment are pretty atypical considering other commercial spaces," Wozniakowski said. 

BKV Group and Two Fourths Studio were the project's architects. 

Barstool Sports' office interior

The building's location allows for high-profile guests to slip in with relative anonymity and was a key factor behind the company's decision to choose the spot. And the work-play options have been a dramatic change from “just sitting at your desk all day” in Manhattan, Lockwood said, adding the space encourages employees to come in early and stay late for impromptu basketball games and rounds of golf.

“They'll still be hanging around an extra hour or two,” he said. “That kind of stuff just helps get people closer together and new ideas come out of that ... it's just helped creativity a lot.”

Barstool Sports' filming area

Barstool first announced last April that it would move a portion of its New York City-based operations to Chicago, including the popular Pardon My Take podcast.

Lockwood said Katz's Chicago roots and desire to raise his kids in the city were major drivers behind the decision to move some operations to the city. 

Barstool has all the room it currently needs while still having space to grow as its team expands in future years, Lockwood said. 

"We didn't want every inch of space to be utilized going in because we knew we were going to grow into it," he said. "We have space to play with in the future."

The recording area for Barstool's The Yak

Dave Portnoy founded Barstool in 2003 as a free print newspaper handed out in Boston. The brand eventually relaunched as an online blog in 2007 and has gained a massive following in the years since. 

Penn Entertainment bought a minority stake in Barstool in 2020 for $163M and acquired the remaining ownership stakes in February 2023 for $388M, a total of $551M, according to Investopedia. In August 2023, Penn sold Barstool back to Dave Portnoy for $1 after Penn entered a deal with ESPN to rebrand the online sports-betting business from Barstool Sportsbook to ESPN Bet, Variety reported