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DePaul basketball may be on the move

Published: Sunday, October 7, 2012

Updated: Sunday, October 7, 2012 20:10

stadium graphic

Max Kleiner

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.

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