Sources Say Bulls' Move To New Practice Facility Is Tied To Entertainment Complex Deal
The Bulls are "putting a 'for sale' sign on their comfortable north suburban digs and moving" to downtown Chicago, where the team "plans to open a new practice and basketball operations facility," according to Channick & Shropshire of the CHICAGO TRIBUNE. The move reflects "economics, culture and a desire to end grueling game-day commutes for players from their current practice site, the Berto Center." Sources said that a "prime potential location for the privately funded facility would be near the United Center along once-gritty West Madison Street, where the arena's owners are hoping to build a new entertainment and retail complex." The United Center's Owners, a joint venture that includes Bulls Chair Jerry Reinsdorf and Blackhawks Owner Rocky Wirtz, are "considering building an entertainment complex on a parking lot at Wood and Madison streets on the center's east side." Sources said that while any plans for the entertainment complex "are separate from the Bulls' announcement to move their practice facility into the city, they also say it would make sense for the two developments to be nearby" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 6/14). CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS' Greg Hinz noted the Bulls' decision is "closely linked to ongoing discussions about building an entertainment center next to the United Center and is likely to spur those talks." Sources said that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel "personally asked" Reinsdorf to move from the Berto Center to the city." The request came as Reinsdorf and Wirtz are pitching Emanuel "for a renewed tax break in exchange for building a $75 million to $85 million restaurant and retail complex on what now is a UC parking lot." One source said moving from Berto "is a good-faith gesture" for the larger talks. Another source said that he "believes an agreement is close, with a tacit understanding among the parties and a strong probability that the new practice facility will be built adjacent to the UC" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 6/13).
NO SWEETHEART DEALS: In Chicago, Fran Spielman notes Emanuel yesterday "did not rule out an extension of the lucrative property tax break." The mayor said he would “represent the taxpayers and make sure they’re not taken to the cleaners” to help a professional sports franchise. Emanuel: “There will be no sweetheart deals and there has been no discussion. This was purely bringing the Bulls home in the off-season to sweet home Chicago. You are a Chicago basketball team. What are you doing practicing in Deerfield?” He added, "I’m glad that the Bulls are expanding. I’m glad they’re gonna spend $95 million. I’m glad they’re gonna create jobs, and I’m glad they’re moving the Bulls back. But that doesn’t mean you get what you got before." Spielman notes the Bulls have "outgrown the 20-year-old Berto Center and are searching for ways to consolidate team offices and reduce commuting times for players." The Bulls also said that a new facility "could be used for other things, including events and educational space" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/14). In Illinois, Mike McGraw noted the Bulls are "expecting to use the Berto Center for at least two more years" (DAILYHERALD.com, 6/13).
GIVE A LITTLE, TAKE A LITTLE: In Chicago, Mark Brown writes, "Of all Chicago’s sports team owners, Reinsdorf has always been the most politically adept at getting his way." Sources said that Reinsdorf’s commitment to Emanuel "to build a Chicago practice facility has no connection to the development plan, although the new gym might be included as part of it." Sources added that there is "no connection to the Cubs’ hopes of obtaining a break on future amusement taxes to fix up Wrigley Field." But Brown writes it is "all connected, of course, in ways that have yet to be completely revealed to us" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 6/14).