It appears that DePaul men’s basketball team will have a new arena to play in. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel is set to announce a $300 million dollar arena at McCormick Place. The arena is expected to seat 10,000-12,000 and will part of an entertainment district supported by the mayor. DePaul turned down an offer to play rent free in the United Center for ten years.
The school’s contract with Allstate Arena is set to expire in 2015. Due to dwindling attendance, the university is committed to moving Blue Demon back into the city, even including it in its five-year plan. Allstate Arena, located in Rosemont, is around 16 miles from DePaul’s campus in Chicago. The team moved there from the on-campus Alumni Hall in 1980. In 2000, Alumni Hall was replaced by the Sullivan Athletic Center which includes the 3,000 seat McGrath-Phillips Arena, the current home to DePaul’s women’s basketball and volleyball teams.
With the official announcement still pending, details about the new arena vary by source. The local CBS station is reporting that the City of Chicago and the Metropolitan Pier and Expansion Authority would put up $100 million dollars each while DePaul would contribute $75 million. Crain’s Chicago Business is reporting that its sources claim reports of the $100 million dollars contribution from the city as “inaccurate.”
There are numerous story lines with this story. First, there is DePaul’s desire to move the team back into the city, but also some reluctance to build an on-campus arena. The university has not made any indication, such as contacting a design firm or surveying sites, that it has considered building an arena suitable for men’s basketball. It is perfectly understandable that the university would consider other options instead of choosing to build a costly arena.
The controversial part of this announcement comes when the school’s rejection of the United Center’s offer is considered. As a private school, DePaul certainly has the right to say no the offer of free rent and instead opt to pay its $75 million share for the new arena. But judging from the comments on the previously linked articles, the taxpayers of Chicago will be opposed to this deal. Their objections are easily understood. If the city was attempting to lure the Blue Demons back into Chicago this may be a different situation. But the university already had an offer to play in an arena with NBA quality amenities located in the city. Chicago’s debt has been well documented, with the city’s bond rating being significantly downgraded earlier this year. City officials will have to explain to taxpayers why spending $100 million dollars of its money on a new arena.
If the details being reported about the deal are correct, DePaul is getting a dream deal. Any major university in the country would be willing to pay $75 million dollars for rent and the first right of scheduling in an arena worth nearly triple that sum in value. With the potential backlash from citizens, DePaul may never get that chance. Businessofcollegesports.com will keep you updated as this story progresses.
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