To say that the arena situation in Chicago is in flux is an understatement: Wintrust Arena opens this fall as the home of the DePaul Blue Demons, moving from Allstate Arena. The move requires a whole new approach to ticket and event sales for DePaul and its partner, SMG.
In case you are unfamiliar with the geography, the first thing you need to know about the selling of Wintrust Arena is the location of the Blue Demons’ former home, Allstate Arena. It’s not actually located in Chicago proper, but rather suburban Rosemont, about a half hour drive from the undergraduate campus in Lincoln Park. Whereas other major universities have huge student sections, the Blue Demons do not. And while other major universities have relied on basketball as a big revenue source, the average crowd of 4,923 at Allstate Arena for the 2016-2017 season is pretty lame for a major university in a major city.
And while Wintrust Arena isn’t on campus, it’s a lot closer both physically (under seven miles) and culturally to the Lincoln Park campus and even closer to the Loop campus, next to McCormick Place on the edge of downtown Chicago. The latter is something that DePaul and SMG are counting on when it comes to basketball ticket sales and event rentals. There surely be more students on hand for DePaul basketball games, and given the demographics of the area surrounding Wintrust Arena, there will be a concerted effort to sell tickets to recent graduates — the millennials who scored a degree and then decided to stay in the center city. From an excellent piece in The Depaulia:
Due to the new location in the city, Wintrust Arena will have a different audience in terms of marketing than the Allstate Arena audience of alumni in the northwest suburbs, DePaul’s Associate Athletics Director for Ticket Sales and Operations Marty Murphy said.
“It will be very neighborhood and Chicago centric,” he said. “(For Allstate Arena) we focused a lot of our efforts in the northwest suburbs because they’re close to the arena. We have thousands of Alumni who live in the Loop and Hyde Park area where it will now be simple and easy for them to get to the game (at Wintrust Arena).”…
A new specific target will be recent alumni, those who graduated between 2013 and 2017. They will have a 50 percent discount and their season ticket packages, for a section designed for recent alumni in the lower bowl, will be $170 for the season.
“We know you’re not making a million bucks yet,” Murphy said in regards to recent alumni. “We want to invite (recent alumni) because it’s going to be fun to go to a game downtown and be part of the city.”
Booking events to Wintrust Arena will have pluses and minuses. On the plus side, Wintrust Arena events will have access to the McCormick Place infrastructure, including freeway access and parking ramps. On the minus side, there may be situations where a Wintrust Arena event could be overshadowed by a big McCormick Place event. It will surely be a learning experience for everyone in every respect.
It will also means finding a niche in the Chicago arena scene. Replacing DePaul at Allstate Arena is Northwestern University, taking up temporary residency there until Welsh-Ryan Arena renovations are completed.