Blue Demons Coming Back to Chicago

After over three decades in suburban Rosemont, the DePaul men's basketball team is at last set to return to playing their games in the city of Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and DePaul University today announced plans to build a new multi-purpose events center in the South Loop near McCormick Place that will be home to DePaul men's basketball and will also host some DePaul women's basketball games.

The events center, to be located North of Cermak Road between Indiana and South Prairie Avenues, is expected to have a seating capacity greater than 10,000 plus premium suites, club seating, and loge boxes.

The City expects to break ground on the events center in 2014 and have the facility open in time for the 2016-17 basketball season.

The events center will be built as part of a major revitalization of the South Loop neighborhood and a redevelopment of Navy Pier named "Elevate Chicago". The project is expected to provide 10,000 construction jobs and 3,700 permanent jobs.

"These projects represent a major economic engine for Chicago, injecting millions of dollars into our local economy and creating thousands of construction and fulltime jobs," said Emanuel. "From the moment I took office I have focused on attracting people to Chicago and showing off this wonderful city, and these two projects will leave a lasting impact on the city for generations."

DePaul University is contributing $70 million to the $140 million project.

"The center will bring together the large and diverse community of DePaul students, alumni and fans from Chicago and its suburbs," said DePaul president Father Dennis Holtschneider. "In addition to hosting home games for DePaul basketball teams and serving as a practice facility, the venue will support other high-profile functions for both DePaul and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA)—including DePaul commencement ceremonies and Chicago's convention-related business."

The events center will be constructed through a unique combination of funds from a private educational institution and a civic enterprise like the city of Chicago.

"We're really excited about it," DePaul Athletic Director Jeanne Lenti Ponsetto told WLS Radio. "It's a great public/private partnership. I think it's the wave of what we're going to continue to see in Chicago and probably throughout the country. In tough economic times, I think cities are looking for economic stimulus opportunities."

DePaul men's basketball coach Oliver Purnell jokingly compared the process he has been through while pursuing the events center to giving birth to a child.

"I've been dreaming about this since the day I stepped on this campus and visited with Jeanne and Father Dennis," said Purnell. "We talked about it some then, but it really was just a dream. And now, we will be playing in a great home court environment, and we'll be back in the city of Chicago. I'm very proud of the partnership between McCormick Place and DePaul . It's really our goal here to have a top notch basketball program, and I really believe that this is the next step. This first class top notch arena, along with the realignment of the Big East, I can tell you right now it has already started to affect our recruiting. Even with this class that's coming in now. I think it will do nothing but enhance that even more. Not only in the city of Chicago, but nationwide."

Purnell sees new facilities as a big shot in the arm for attracting prospects to his basketball program. The Blue Demons will now be able to practice and play in a state of the art facility.

"It will be one of the major selling points without question," Purnell said. "It depends on the individual kid, but I can tell you that facilities are huge in terms of a primary buying motive for a prospect and his family or influencers."


- Holtschneider and Ponsetto confirmed that the United Center's offer to DePaul was not completely free and included operating costs.

- DePaul will own the naming rights for the new events center. The naming of the facility and the design of the building will be determined more at a later date.

- Robert Morris University has also inquired about using the facility for basketball.

- The design will include:

- Prominent internal and external brand signage areas will be available to DePaul on a permanent basis;

- A basketball playing surface with all customary and NCAA-standard related features; - A variety of meeting rooms;

- No fewer than six locker rooms, including dedicated locker rooms for the DePaul men's and - women's basketball programs, two officials' locker rooms and visiting locker rooms;

- Training rooms with suitable conditioning equipment and hydro-therapy stations;

- Coaches' offices;

- Sound system, video, scoreboard, ribbon-board;

- Wireless and television capabilities, including television truck access points and appropriate - loading zone access for direct entry of television trucks and team buses;

- Media, hospitality and interview space;

- Concessions space, including a dedicated area servicing the club seats;

- A permanent, prominently-located trophy case dedicated to DePaul use;

- An auxiliary box office; and

- A merchandise and gift shop.

- Parking for 2,000 vehicles is available in an existing parking facility across East Cermak Road from the Events Center Parcels (the "East Cermak Road Parking Facility"), which will be connected to the Events Center by the Skybridge.

- The MPEA will provide 2,000 parking spaces for each DePaul event held at the Events Center, which spaces may be in the East Cermak Road Parking Facility or any other parking facility within the boundaries of Planned Development 331.

- An elevated pedestrian walkway will connect the Events Center to the East Cermak Road Parking Facility.

- DePaul will run shuttle buses to games from both campuses, and from the new CTA green line station at Cermak Road.

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