CHICAGO (CBS) -- The mood was electric in the South Loop near the Wintrust Arena Sunday afternoon, as anticipation turned to jubilation for the WNBA Champion Chicago Sky.
An hour after the game, people were still out, and were eager to cheer behind CBS 2's Marissa Parra as she reported live. People were lined up outside the arena hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the players.
An hour before that as crowds spilled out of the arena, there were many smiles and some tears of joy. And it was a nice change of pace to an area hit so hard over the last year.
On Game Day 4 of the Finals, the sun shined on the Chicago Sky – and on businesses across the street from the stadium at 200 E. Cermak Rd.
"We got a full house," said Eddie Mendoza, general manager at Pizano's by McCormick Place. "It's super busy. Tickets are flying out of the kitchen. Pizzas are cranking out."
Eateries like Pizano's enjoyed their slice of success, as fans of all ages descended from near and far.
Mark Stevens was coming to Chicago for the first time – along with other family members of Sky No. 30 Azura Stevens.
"I think my sister is seeing around the city, you see everyone having jerseys on. You're seeing that they're putting the different banners on some of the different monuments in the city," said Da'Shena Stevens. "So I think they're really feeling the support from the city, which is amazing, and it's exciting to see."
That support translated into a sold-out arena.
"I've never been into the arena with a sell-out crowd with Chicago Sky, so this will be my first time," said Sky fan Tonya Morris.
And more tickets means more people in the area – which looked dramatically different at this time last year. As arenas and McCormick Place stayed relatively empty at the earlier height of the COVID-19 pandemic, bars like Fatpour Tap Works McCormick, 2206 S. Indiana Ave., were tapped out for a year.
Now, they are back in the game – with patrons pouring in from across the street at the arena.
"Thank God for the Sky," said Mark Vella, assistant manager at Fatpour. "All hands on deck! You know?> fully staffed. The biggest change is the Sky. They're doing so well this year, and it's really giving us a lot of hope that they're going to do well in the future."
Championship Inspires Big Dreams, On And Off The Court
Meanwhile, fans of all ages danced to the beat of victory, and bringing a win to the Windy City.
"Chicago absolutely needed this!" said fan Matt Lindner. "I mean, it's the first time we've had a championship at home since the Blackhawks did it!"
It came after a hard year, and emotions were running high.
"My wife, we had - this would have meant so much for her," said Hector Lopez.
"I'm excited for Chicago, very excited for Chicago," added Merisha Jackson as she teared up. "The women came so far. They worked so far. They put in sweat, blood , and tears just like the men do. But you know what? The woman had to carry Chicago this time, baby!"
There were also plenty of girls who play basketball themselves in attendance.
"These women are playing their butts off and inspiring and empowering, you know, the next generation, so this is awesome," said Kimberly Coleman, head varsity basketball coach at Trinity High School, an all-girls' school in River Forest.
For young girls who see themselves in players on the court, this was not just a ball game. It was inspiration.
"Being from Chicago, seeing them win just puts a lot of confidence in the city - and definitely in me, because this is something I want to do be when I grow up," said one girl, Tasha.
And when Parra asked Tasha if we might someday see her out on the court, Tasha was quick to say yes, to cheers.
for more features.