DePaul basketball may be on the move

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The mayor’s office has taken interest in DePaul’s 2018 Vision to bring back Blue Demons basketball to Chicago.

DePaul has been in discussions with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority to build a new arena, which was originally reported by Crain’s Business’ Greg Hinz. If the two were to reach an agreement, the new arena would be built near McCormick Place.

Behind the negotiations, multiple outlets reported, was Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”DePaul for years has been talking about a stadium in Chicago that’s better for their basketball team, better for their fans and better to be close to home,” said Emanuel at a press conference Oct. 1. “It’s in our interest as a city that they choose Chicago. And so we’re going to work together to look at Chicago being a home for DePaul’s Blue Demons.”I want to bring this to a conclusion that is successful for them and successful for the city of Chicago.”

A new building would get the Blue Demons out of Allstate Arena, which has hosted DePaul basketball games since its opening year in 1980. Nothing is specific yet – it is still unknown what the arena may look like, what the seating capacity will be, or how much the building will cost. The only detail the looks like a certainty is that the arena will be ready for use in 2018.

DePaul issued a statement Sept. 28 regarding a potential new arena.

“There have been a number of ideas and proposals that have surfaced over the past several years. We have considered all of them and would certainly consider any others that might be forthcoming in the future. As of now, however, nothing definitive has been forthcoming.”

For now, all parties involved in working with DePaul have remained quiet. When contacted, both Mayor Emanuel’s office and the McPier Board declined to comment on the specifics of a potential deal.

However at a Faculty Council Meeting on Wednesday, Fr. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M. addressed reports of a new arena.

“I’m gonna let the outside folks chatter away and work inside very quietly,” Holtschneider said. “I am determined DePaul is not going to do this alone, and when you don’t do it alone, there’s always leaks.”

A new arena is not the only option for DePaul.

CBS Chicago reported that Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf has expressed interest in having the Blue Demons play at the United Center, the home of the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Blackhawks.

They could also possibly play at the proposed practice facility the Bulls are planning to build on one of the main parking lots surrounding their West Side arena. Although based on Fr. Holtschneider’s remarks, it doesn’t appear likely that the United Center would be a viable option.

“We would not be the first tenant and maybe not the second tenant, or even necessarily the third. It could be Chicago likes the circus better,” he joked.

With the United Center posing problems, another alternative would be building a new stadium. There are other factors that could prevent this happening as well.

Last May, DePaul Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto estimated a new arena would cost around $200-250 million. There are questions as to where that money would come from. Crain’s Greg Hinz reported that McPier has more than $100 million in untapped bonding authority, funds that could be used to construct an arena.

Other problems include zoning issues and political power. Previously, locations closer to the Lincoln Park campus have been considered – including the A. Finkl & Sons Co. steel factory site on Cortland Avenue and the Morton Salt Company on Elston Avenue. These areas caused concern during the 43rd Ward alderman runoff debate March 31.

“I think we should maintain that planned manufacturing system that’s been there for a long time against development which will cause rampant traffic issues,” said 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith.

Despite the political pressure, Fr. Holtschneider told The DePaulia that “DePaul always takes its time working with neighbors and political leaders before moving forward with building projects. That will be no different in this case.”

The South Loop area would be located west of McCormick Place parking and a new CTA Green Line station, a site which has been proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Bonnie Sanchez-Carlson, executive director of the Near South Planning Board, pointed to Roosevelt University’s deal with the Lillian and Larry Goodman Center in Skokie, Ill. for their basketball team to play at the 27,834-gross square-foot facility.

“If the need is there,” said Sanchez-Carlson, “keeping them in the city in the South Loop would be beneficial to all of us.”

President of Sportscorp Ltd. Marc Gains, who has been involved in development of numerous major sports stadiums such as Yankee Stadium and Heinz Field, speculated that the DePaul stadium is a part of something bigger that is being pushed by Mayor Emanuel.

“On its face, it’s questionable whether it makes sense,” Ganis said. “The city already has quite a few arenas and theaters for concerts.

“[The proposed arena] is not close to the campus, it will have limited utility for other university activities that would be far better suited for something with close proximity to the campus. And it will be directly competitive with other existing facilities in the downtown area of Chicago.”

At his press conference, the Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel said that site selection is “ultimately is up to them, but I want them to pick Chicago, they want to pick Chicago.”

DePaul has confirmed that it wants to bring back the men’s basketball team to the city.

“We believe that moving to Chicago will increase game attendance and thereby create an even more positive game experience,” said Fr. Holtschneider. “We believe more students will attend if the distance and time to the arena is shortened. We also believe that a new arena located in Chicago will strengthen our ability to recruit the finest talent to play at DePaul.”

The school declined to discuss the exact locations, but is listening to offers.

“Sometimes opportunities come your way that could save you so much money that you can’t pass up the conversation,” said Fr. Holtschneider.

“Now that every college (facility) is housed well – or soon will be – we can turn our attention to this next project.”