Blackhawks' Wirtz Aiming For New Practice Facility, Wants Cap On Amusement Tax
Blackhawks Chair Rocky Wirtz on Thursday said that he has begun "'putting the numbers together' for a possible 70,000-square-foot practice facility" that would be on the site of a parking lot "just northeast of the United Center" and across the street from a similar structure under construction by the Bulls, according to Greg Hinz of CRAIN'S CHICAGO BUSINESS. Wirtz suggested that his "major goal is to leverage the Blackhawks' soaring popularity to promote the sport among youngsters." Wirtz said, "The suburbs all are well-off, but the city really needs more ice surface" for hockey leagues and related sports. But Wirtz also "made it clear that in exchange for the investment, he'd like a gentleman's agreement with Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle that they won't raise the amusement tax on Blackhawks games anytime soon." The two governments "now impose" a combined 12% levy on tickets -- 9% from the city and 3% from the county -- and Wirtz has been "increasingly outspoken on what he contends is a far larger tax burden than most of his competitors pay." Wirtz: "If the city and the county could just cap it, give us some certainty for five or 10 years, it certainly would help." Hinz notes the United Center "already owns the lot, which means no time needs to be allotted for land acquisition." But initial reaction from the city and county "was non-committal" (CHICAGOBUSINESS.com, 5/16).