The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

Proposed basketball practice facility raises questions of student displacement

Lincoln+Park+community+members+watch+as+Vice+President+for+Facility+Operations%2C+Rich+Wiltse%2C+left%2C+architect%2C+Joseph+Antunovich%2C+middle%2C+Athletics+Director+DeWayne+Peevy+%2C+far+right%2C+and+Associate+Vice+President+of+Community+and+Government+Relations%2C+Peter+Coffey+demo+their+new+athletics+facility+on+Monday%2C+April+29%2C+2024.
Jeremy Battle
Lincoln Park community members watch as Vice President for Facility Operations, Rich Wiltse, left, architect, Joseph Antunovich, middle, Athletics Director DeWayne Peevy , far right, and Associate Vice President of Community and Government Relations, Peter Coffey demo their new athletics facility on Monday, April 29, 2024.

DePaul hosted a community meeting Monday, April 29, at Cortelyou Commons to update residents and students on the modifications to the proposed basketball practice facility.

In his opening statement, Vice President and Director of Athletics DeWayne Peevy said DePaul athletics must return to national recognition and relevance, increasing applications and enrollment as universities nationwide struggle to continue enrolling students nationwide. Athletic performance elevates media attention, and DePaul’s athletes can’t perform well with its current facilities “in disrepair,” according to Peevy.

“Whether we agree with it or not, it’s much easier for an athletics department to garner media attention than our academic colleges and programs today,” Peevy said. “Recruits are turning us down at DePaul because of our facilities.”

Peevy then gave a virtual tour of the Sullivan Athletic Center, showing amenities such as the weight room, recovery room and locker rooms and comparing these to other Big East schools. He noted that DePaul is the only conference school without a dedicated basketball practice facility, with Seton Hall’s in construction and St. Johns’ set to be completed by Spring 2027.

“When I got here four years ago, I assessed where our department was and why we haven’t competed and won,” Peevy said. “We’re last in the Big East conference in every major category …. We’re investing in all of those at a high level to be able to invest in our future and our university.”

The speakers’ main criticism was the displacement of students from the roughly 40 student apartments set to be destroyed.

Some stressed the lack of flexibility with the loss of housing when students request room changes or enroll mid-year. Others pointed out that if DePaul’s plan comes to fruition and enrollment does increase, the lack of housing would push students into the Lincoln Park housing market, directly competing with residents and looking for housing they would struggle to pay for.

Richard Wiltse, DePaul’s vice president for facility operations, responded, saying there are currently 192 beds available on campus. He also said he conducted an apartments.com search April 18 and found 857 two-person apartments available for May 1 move-in at the price point equivalent to student housing (a maximum of $1,400 monthly per student) within the Vinnie Van’s boundaries: Ashland (West), North Ave. (South), Addison (North) and Sheridan (East).

“There’s not a demonstrable shortage of housing in this area … for the price point that our students are paying to live on campus, so I think we have to agree to disagree,” Wiltse said.

Peter Coffey, the associate vice president for community and government relations, added that if DePaul’s enrollment does increase, long-term plans are in place to accommodate additional housing in three DePaul-owned lots.

“We currently have zoning approval to add more housing,” Coffey said. “There is a plan on paper that allows for housing to be built within our existing property footprint that’s already zoned.”

Some questioned why the surface lot on the corner of Fullerton and Sheffield would not be the location of the practice facility.

“Why would you put this tucked down inside the campus if you want everyone to see it and miss the opportunity to really build this on one of the busiest streets on the North side of the city,” Barbara Perry, a Lincoln Park resident, said. “You’ve got that land just sitting there … these things aren’t making any sense to me.”

Coffey discussed the surface lot in detail, stating DePaul plans to utilize that space for a very large property that would build parking underground, running from Sheffield to Seminary and Fullerton to Montana. The university is required to replace the parking spots at that site if they are built over.

“That’s the kind of massive development that’s slated for that site. I cannot stand here and tell you when that’s going to happen,” Coffey said. “Moving the basketball site to that lot does not achieve what we’re trying to do long-term at DePaul University.”

Lincoln Park resident Maggie Grossman has been going to Blue Demon basketball games since she was a kid and believes the university has moved past its era of basketball greatness. She believes the facility would take away from the character of the neighborhood without bringing much support for the basketball team.

“From my point of view, that is the real value of DePaul education right now. In the last 20 years, DePaul education is about being part of the Chicago community,” Grossman said. “DePaul is not the little school under the ‘L’ anymore. They’re not coming here for the basketball team.”

DePaul student Tim Anderson responded later on, speaking about the university’s legacy in basketball and how coach Ray Meyer and his son Joey represented the Vincentian values of the university at large. He said these values are best projected when leaders in the athletics program use their visibility and reputation to spread them, alluding to Peevy’s reference to the athletics program as the “front porch” of the university.

“When I speak about this from a basketball perspective, I’m not an athlete, but I care about it because I understand as a marketing student … attract the most talent to DePaul because that is ultimately the most outward-facing example and voice of our university,” Anderson said. “We are trying to do our best as a university to be open to make concessions and make adjustments so that we fit better within the neighborhood we’ve been a part of for 125 years.”

Timmy Knudsen, alderman for the 43rd ward, which includes DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, also spoke at the meeting. He said his office asked DePaul to make “significant changes” to their first proposal in November. These changes involved design, aesthetics, openness to the general student population, size, sustainability, long-term preservation efforts and use for youth sports leagues.

On Friday, May 3, the Alderman’s office sent an update via email.

“Our office has not made a final determination related to the project, and accordingly, will continue to negotiate in order to ensure that if a project is done, it is one that benefits our community for generations,” Knudsen said.

 

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