Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s announcement this week that he’s building a home court for DePaul University’s basketball teams near McCormick Place could sound like payback for Rosemont’s pitch to lure the Chicago Cubs away from Wrigley Field.
In March, Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens offered the Cubs roughly 25 acres of village-owned property off the Tri-State Tollway and Balmoral Avenue for a new ballpark to mirror their 99-year-old stadium if the team’s negotiations with Chicago to renovate Wrigley Field fall through.
Stephens said Friday he is disappointed but not irked by the prospect of losing the Blue Demons to Chicago. The men’s basketball team has played at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena for nearly three decades since it opened.
“It’s not like it’s a nasty divorce,” Stephens said. “All good things come to an end. We were fortunate enough to be there in their heyday.”
The university administration’s desire to move precedes any friction over the future of Wrigley Field. Stephens said he has known of it for 18 months. “We are firmly behind the DePaul administration and what they think is right for their university,” he said.
Construction of Chicago’s arena is set to begin in 2014, and the facility is expected to open for the 2016-2017 college basketball season. It will accommodate 17 men’s games and 10 women’s games, according to a university news release. DePaul’s agreement with Rosemont runs through the 2015-2016 basketball season.
“This (Chicago) facility will bring the Blue Demons much closer to the largest segment of our fan base and will add significantly to the momentum that our basketball programs have been building in recent years,” the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, president of DePaul, said in a news release.
Emanuel on Thursday announced a $278 million plan to remodel Navy Pier and build a 10,000-seat basketball arena near McCormick Place for the Blue Demons. McCormick Place and DePaul would put up $70 million each to design and build the arena.
The university expects to fund the new arena through various sources, including ticket sales, naming rights, and revenues generated by DePaul Athletics and the Big East Conference, according to the news release.
“They couldn’t do it alone and they needed a partner. And their partner is now the city,” Stephens said. “If they get this thing done, and they think it’s the right thing for the university ... I’ll be there for the tipoff of the first game of the season at McCormick Place.”
Stephens said DePaul attendance has declined over the years, along with the revenues generated for the village. The arena has a seating capacity of 18,500.
“DePaul reports an average attendance of 8,300,” he said. “Back in the day, they were filling the house.”
Rosemont will have to find new events to fill roughly 18 dates a year. “If we can use those dates to attract other business, that’s a plus for us,” Stephens said.
Even with the Blue Demons’ departure, Rosemont continues as a sports hub. The arena is home to the Chicago Wolves hockey team, the WNBA’s Chicago Sky and the Chicago Rush arena football team. The village also built a $6 million, 2,000-seat stadium for the Chicago Bandits professional women’s softball team, luring it from Elgin.
The Chicago plan is a threat to Rosemont in another way as well. The city plans to use the arena as a hall for smaller conventions and trade shows. Stephens said there’s no tug-of-war between the two, though he’d rather see continued differentiation.
“I think that we can handle the small and midrange stuff, and I’d love to see McCormick Place go after the big conventions,” Stephens said. “It’s a very competitive market in the convention industry nationwide,” he added. “Strong convention business in Chicago is good for us, as well.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.