DePaul basketball excited to be back in the city
When it comes to DePaul's new real estate, location is the best selling point.
Wintrust Arena is not on campus, but it is in the city of Chicago, adjacent to McCormick Place in the South Loop neighborhood. Being back in the city is important to the school, which played at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont for more than 30 years.
Asked his favorite part of the new arena, men's head coach Dave Leitao kept it simple.
"Location," Leitao said. "I think playing in the city of Chicago means a lot for a lot of different reasons. Our students will be in proximity. Our fans, casual fans, the community at large, can get here very easily. It's convenient for all of the DePaul people, particularly our players.
"That as much as anything gives us something to be very excited about."
The DePaul men are planning to open the new building against Notre Dame on Nov. 11. The women's team will host Connecticut in the new building on Dec. 8.
"For as long as I can remember, since Coach Ray (Meyer) went to the Final Four in '78-79, DePaul has been trying to find that footprint," athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto said. "Allstate was a terrific home for us for a lot of years. To be back in the city of Chicago, where our roots are and we have so many alumni and friends of the program, it's great. This is a nice new beginning for us."
Reporters were given a tour of the facility Wednesday. There is still plenty of work to be done, but seats are going in, the scoreboard was lit up and the look of the place is taking shape.
The building is expected to seat about 10,000 for basketball. There are two levels of seating, plus 22 suites. The student section is planned for the north end.
It should be a great setting for college basketball, but the key is filling it with fans, something that was a challenge at the Allstate Arena as DePaul has failed to post a winning record since the 2006-07 season.
"When you build an arena like that, vertically, every seat is a great seat," Leitao said. "You can be in the second level and still feel like you're on top of the game and don't miss anything."
The arena will have a bridge to the Marriott Marquis hotel, which is being built next door. Another bridge will connect the hotel to the parking lot across Cermak Road. Two CTA stations are nearby, which should make the arena more convenient for DePaul students.
"From our downtown campus, I want to say it's three stops," Lenti Ponsetto said. "From Lincoln Park, it's 10. We'll still run buses for our students, at least in the first year, and we might do a loop from the El for our students and fans. For public transportation, you never could do that at Allstate.
"When we sat with the architects and talked about what's important to us, we talked about sightlines and intimacy and wanted to be the best basketball arena in the country. I just think they knocked it out of the park."