They gathered from all corners of DePaul nation - former players and diehard fans, true-blue administrators and passionate supporters from all walks of life - to celebrate and rejoice in the dawn of a new era in Blue Demon basketball.
The festive and emotion-filled special occasion was the season-opening game of the brand new Wintrust Arena last Saturday against longtime rival Notre Dame. But this went far beyond what one NBA scout called the best college basketball game of the day.
For people like Wintrust fundraising chair Dan Ustian, DePaul super fan and donor Joni Phillips, Blue Demon alums David Booth and Stephen Howard, former coach Joey Meyer, DePaul Athletics Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto, men's basketball coach Dave Leitao and women's basketball coach Doug Bruno, this was the moment all their hard work and sacrifice transformed a hopeful dream into a reality.
"It's electrifying and kind of hard to describe in words," Ustian says. "What a great arena and the start of something special. The feeling today is even better than we all thought it would be."
It really didn't matter that DePaul came up short against one of the nation's top teams. Those loyalists, along with the other 10,188 fans that filled up Wintrust Arena, came away realizing they were now a part of a basketball genesis. For some, it was almost too good to be true.
"This is the beginning of a new chapter in the book of DePaul and the day everyone has been waiting for," says Booth, now the director of player personnel for the New Orleans Pelicans. "It's really exciting to see what the future holds, and it totally brings back memories of what it was like when I played."
And when the Blue Demons ascend to the top of the mountain, the driving force behind the resurgence will simply sit back and smile.
"It was great to see the heart of DePaul, so many former men's and women's basketball players and alumni from other sports along with longtime season ticketholders and some who have come back into the fold," Ponsetto says. "Everyone came together with our faculty and staff to celebrate this historic moment in DePaul athletics history."