DePaul athletic-department officials have a big decision to make: whether to build a $150-million arena for the Blue Demons or to take up residence at the United Center.
The lease at Allstate Arena in Rosemount ends in 2015, and there’s virtually no chance the Blue Demons will continue playing to sparse crowds in the suburbs past that date. The tentative plan had the team moving closer to its Lincoln Park campus in a new facility, one that would cost $150 million or so. The economy is still in rough enough shape where raising that kind of money would be difficult, but there’s a path to construction. Under a plan being pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a new arena would be built by Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority at McCormick Place. This space, besides hosting 16 DePaul basketball games a year, would also serve as additional exhibit convention space and host additional events. DePaul would have a lot of control over what happens at the arena
Of course, a new venue at McCormick Place would present some serious competition for United Center, home of the Chicago Bulls (NBA) and Chicago Blackhawks (NHL). So the United Center braintrust has decided to directly compete for the Blue Demons and offer a 10-year lease with plenty of goodies, including free rent and some arena reconfigurations to push the Blue Demons brand.
A copy of the PowerPoint presentation United Center ownership made to DePaul says that the United Center “would redesign its basketball floor to allow the two ‘end zones’ to be removable. For DePaul games, they would be replaced with ‘DePaul,’ ‘Big East’ or whatever is desired,” with a large DePaul logo decal going over the Bulls’ one at center court.
DePaul also would be allowed to hang its championship banners from the rafters, use the owners’ and marketing suites, use the Bulls’ locker room, install a Blue Demons store and have dedicated restaurant and other staff. And the Bulls would help DePaul sell tickets to its games, give Blue Demons season-ticket holders an early crack at concert tickets and let the team use the facility one night a year for free for “fundraising or other purposes.”
Of course, there’s one drawback: being the third tenant in an arena is always tough when it comes to scheduling and divvying up revenues. Crain’s is reporting DePaul is leaning toward the McCormick Place solution, if only for the greater level of control over scheduling and revenues.