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Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced a partnership between the city of Chicago and DePaul University for the launch of a 10,000-seat multipurpose events center near McCormick place. Described as a large-scale tourism and economic development project, the center will host high profile functions for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) and serve as the new home of the DePaul Blue Demons.
“Establishing the McCormick Place entertainment district along with the redevelopment of Navy Pier is a vital step in tapping the full potential of the city of Chicago,” said Mayor Emanuel. “These projects represent a major economic engine for Chicago, injecting millions of dollars into our local economy and creating thousands of construction and full-time jobs. 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 athletic director Jean Lenti Ponsetto was also eager to discuss what makes the new events center mutually beneficial for both the school's short term and long term goals, and the city of Chicago.
"There are and there have been many times throughout history that DePaul has enhanced a neighborhood," Ponsetto stated during a press conference Thursday afternoon. "The revitalization that transpired in Lincoln Park is a great example of that. Wherever DePaul has put down roots, it has always felt a civic pride in wanting to be a betterment to the city of Chicago."
The costs of the events center will be evenly shared between the MPEA and DePaul University, with construction projected to begin in 2014 and finish in time for the 2016-2017 college basketball season.
Both the men's and women's home basketball games will take place at the new events center. The center will also serve as the new practice facility for the DePaul basketball teams. The convenient location is expected to make DePaul basketball games much more accessible for the estimed 103,000 DePaul alumni that reside in the Chicagoland area.
“This facility will bring the Blue Demons much closer to the largest segment of our fan base and will add significantly to the momentum that our basketball programs have been building in recent years,” said the Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M., president of DePaul.
The events center will include a total of six locker rooms: one for each the men's and women's teams, two for visiting teams, and one for officials. Additionally, the center will include training rooms with suitable conditioning equipment and hydro-therapy stations; offices for coaches; sound system, video, scoreboard and ribbon-board; wireless and TV capabilities, including TV truck access points; media, hospitality and interview space; concessions space; auxiliary box office; merchandise and gift shop; and internal and external signage.
Head men's basketball coach Oliver Purnell explained at Thursday afternoon's press conference that practices will be split between the Lincoln Park campus and the new practice facilities within the center. He further explained that he tentatively believes this will be done in regard to student-athlete class schedules, and overall strategic preparation for home games.
Purnell believes that the new facilities and the home-court atmosphere will be huge factors in the growth of a program which has recently been gaining momentum.
"I've been dreaming about this since the day I stepped on this campus. 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, right in the city of Chicago," said Purnell. "It's really our goal here to have a top notch basketball program, and I really believe that this is the next step. This arena, along with the realignment of the Big East, has already started to affect our recruiting. I believe this will only continue to enhance it even more."
“The DePaul Blue Demons have had a long and storied tradition in college basketball,” added James M. Jenness, chair of DePaul’s board of trustees. “We are looking for our new home at McCormick Place to play a key role in the future of that tradition.”