After eight seasons at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, the Chicago Sky will return to Chicago next year, following former Rosemont co-tenant DePaul to a new stadium near McCormick Place.
The board of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, the city-state agency that runs McCormick Place, voted Tuesday to approve a five-year agreement with the women's basketball franchise, which will begin playing home games at the new Wintrust Arena in May 2018.
The Sky will wrap up its WNBA regular season in Rosemont Sept. 3, with the potential for additional playoff games.
The team played its first four seasons at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. Now it will be about three miles away at the new, 10,387-seat Wintrust Arena being built by McPier at Indiana Avenue and Cermak Road on the near South Side.
"It's a new place, so you might figure with DePaul moving down there, the Sky would probably follow," said Pat Nagle, executive director of the Allstate Arena.
Adam Fox, president and CEO of the Chicago Sky, said the decision to move to the suburbs in 2010 came from a desire to gain exposure throughout the region, and because of the convenience for fans getting there. While a tough decision, going back to the city will allow the Sky to continue to grow its brand, Fox said.
"Having a chance now with the economic growth and what they're trying to do in that area, it gives us an opportunity to go back to the city and continue the growth we've had over the years," Fox said.
The Sky set a franchise record for average attendance last season at 7,009, although some games have recorded crowd sizes under 2,000. Summer camp days have had the biggest crowds, including more than 16,000 during one game last year.
"It's going to be a shiny new toy," Nagle said of the new Chicago stadium. "Everybody knows that it was a tough sell here. I don't know if it will make a difference going downtown."
The Sky played 17 home games in Rosemont, paying the village $9,500 per game as a facility rental fee, under terms of its last extension with the village.
Nagle said there wouldn't be a financial hit to the arena since it can make more with one concert. The extra dates on the calendar will also allow for summertime building improvement projects, he added.
DePaul's men's basketball team wrapped up a 37-season run at the Rosemont stadium in March. DePaul will be the primary tenant of the Wintrust Arena starting in the fall.
The Chicago Wolves hockey team, the Allstate Arena's primary tenant, has a lease through 2019.