SBD/November 20, 2012/Facilities

United Center Trying To Woo DePaul Instead Of School Building Its Own Arena

DePaul would have to come up with $75M for the cost of constructing its own arena
United Center’s owners are “trying to entice" DePaul Univ. to play basketball at the arena and "not build elsewhere in exchange for 10 years of free rent and a boatload of other perks,” according to a source cited by Dave McKinney of the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES. But DePaul “tamped down the free-rent possibility Monday as it continues to weigh its options, including possibly playing Blue Demons basketball in a new arena ... near McCormick Place.” The source said that in addition to the possibility of a rent-free period, the United Center “has offered to let the team put a Blue Demons logo atop the Bulls logo at center court and on both ends of the court, hang its championship banners from the arena’s ceiling, permit DePaul to use the Chicago Bulls locker room during its 16 home games and open a Blue Demons store and restaurant at the arena.” Other elements of the offer include “having the Bulls sell DePaul tickets and granting Blue Demons patrons the ability to buy tickets for United Center concerts and other events earlier than the general public" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 11/20). In Chicago, Greg Hinz noted the United Center owners are “making an extraordinarily vigorous push themselves, perhaps out of fear that a new ... arena would pull away some of the United Center concert and other non-basketball business.” DePaul reportedly is “leaning in favor" of the plan at McCormick Place and Navy Pier "because it would be in its own building rather than a tenant in someone else’s, and because it would have a clear shot at scheduling games without having to work around the Bulls’ and Blackhawks’ schedules.” But the plan has two problems, the first being that DePaul would “have to come up with around $75 million to pay about half of the cost of construction of the 10,000- to 12,000-seat arena.” But the school “would get naming rights, and reportedly already has a major donor expressing significant interest.” The second and perhaps “bigger obstacle is control of the property on which the arena would go” (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 11/19).

TALKING SHOP: Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers said, "I would love for DePaul to have its own arena, but to build it by McCormick Place? Did the school relocate?” Chicago Tribune’s Teddy Greenstein asked, “Are they trying to attract all the conventioneers?” Comcast SportsNet Chicago's David Kaplan said if DePaul played at the United Center they would be the “third tenant” behind the Bulls and Blackhawks and would have to deal with scheduling difficulties. Kaplan: "You’re never going to get to practice there. That’s not a good fit” (“Chicago Tribune Live,” Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 11/19).
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