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Preview: McCormick Place Events Center

DePaul Arena Exterior

When the 2017-2018 NCAA Division I basketball season arrives, the DePaul Blue Demons will find themselves in a brand new arena in Near South Side Chicago. The new venue is being touted as a state-of-the-art arena for both men’s and women’s basketball, but it is also seeking to set a new precedence when it comes to the complete game day experience.

Currently being referred to as either McCormick Place Events Center or DePaul Arena, the new venue will be located across Cermack Road from McCormick Place. With an estimated cost that approaches $200 million, the arena will serve multiple purposes for the university, acting not only as a sporting venue, but as a space for larger events.

One area where McCormick Place Events Center will reshape the game day experience for Blue Demons basketball is its intimacy. With room for roughly 10,000 fans, the arena will be far more conducive to the program’s typical attendance figures than Allstate Arena, the Blue Demons’ current home, which seats more than 18,000 spectators.

DePaul Arena Interior

Along with the main seating bowl, McCormick Place Events Center will feature several modern amenities that will allow it to serve multiple purposes. There will be 22 individual suites, as well as 479 court-side club seats.

The arena will allow DePaul’s men’s and women’s programs to operate out of the same venue, which is not the case now. Currently, men’s basketball plays out of Allstate Arena, while the women host their home games at the Sullivan Athletic Center.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the McCormick Place Events Center is the exterior. Designed and built with the goal to eventually obtain LEED certification, the 300,000 square foot arena will maximize the use of natural daylight by being fully enclosed in translucent materials, including glass. This will not only give it a more open look for passersby, but allow those inside the venue to have complete views of the neighboring area.

In many respects, the location has become a notable aspect for McCormick Place Events Center. It will be part of a larger development that includes a 40-story Marriott Marquis hotel—which is to be constructed across Prairie Street—and will provide additional space for events at the McCormick Place convention center.

Once the arena opens, the hope for DePaul and Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (McPier)—the facility’s owner—is that it will not only generate foot traffic for existing amenities, but spark further development. A potential spinoff for the project could be the McCormick Square neighborhood, a mixed-use development that would include residential, retail, and dining space.

The ultimate goal with the development is to create a neighborhood that provides entertainment options on a year-round basis. Bob Janis—DePaul’s vice president, facilities operations—has gone on record and compared his vision to Wrigleyville, the vibrant area that surrounds Wrigley Field. McPier officials are also onboard with this plan, as CEO Lori Healey sees it not only as a way to bolster the neighborhood surrounding the arena, but to provide more amenities that connect it to surrounding districts. More from Crain’s Chicago Business:

Bringing activity to the area surrounding the convention center campus has been a long-standing challenge for McPier. McCormick Place’s convention and trade show visitors have historically stayed and spent entertainment dollars elsewhere. The city is betting that a 10,000-seat arena that will host DePaul University basketball and other events when it opens in late 2017 will help change that.

But Healey, who previously served as Chicago’s planning commissioner, wants to redefine the locale with street banners and refreshed imagery to create a cachet she hopes will make it a developer magnet.

“Creating that sense of place is going to make retailers, potential office users, other restaurants and other venues want to be a part of it,” she says, pointing to the Staples Center arena, theaters and flurry of restaurants in Los Angeles’ L.A. Live district as a model for McCormick Square.

Among the non-basketball events that could be hosted at McCormick Place Events Center include festivals, conventions, concerts, and larger gatherings for DePaul. In fact, the university already plans to move its annual commencement ceremony to the venue.

The next step for university officials will be to find a naming rights partner. Under the terms of their agreement with McPier, DePaul will collect the revenue generated by a naming rights agreement. DePaul will rent the facility from McPier as part of a 50-year lease, with the Chicago Tribune’s estimates placing the starting rent price around $445,000.

Renderings courtesy of DePaul athletics. 

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