Mayor Rahm Emanuel refused to tip his hand Wednesday on whether he wants to build a new basketball arena for the DePaul Blue Demons near McCormick Place or whether he favors an arena closer to the school's Lincoln Park campus.
The Chicago Tribune reported this week that DePaul has contacted the chairman and CEO of A. Finkl & Sons about the possibility of building a new home on the site the steel company is leaving so it can shift its operations to the South Side.
When DePaul turned down a ten-year, rent-free offer to make the United Center the new home of Blue Demons basketball, it was believed that the decision was made to pursue Emanuel's plan to build a new basketball arena near McCormick Place.
On Wednesday, Emanuel was asked which of the two sites he prefers.
"I want `em in Chicago. Right now, they're playing in Rosemont. And the good news is, they're looking at Chicago, which is exactly what I want to see happen," the mayor said, without answering the question.
"They'll decide where they eventually call home, but they're not gonna call Rosemont home anymore. They're gonna call Chicago. [And] about two weeks from now, the Bulls are gonna be starting construction on their new training center, which is gonna move from [Deerfield] to Chicago. The good news is a lot of people--businesses, families and now industry are calling Chicago home. That's gonna be an advantage for the city, for the people who will build it and the people who will enjoy it."
In 1980, during the heyday of DePaul basketball under legendary coach Ray Meyer, the national's largest Catholic university moved most of its basketball games away from Alumni Hall on its Lincoln Park campus to the then-Rosemont Horizon next to O'Hare Airport. Student attendance has lagged in Rosemont, in part, because the arena is difficult for students without cars to get to.
For years, DePaul has been longing to bring games back to Chicago to boost game-day attendance and the school's ability to recruit top talent.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported last summer that the university had checked out the A. Finkl & Sons Co. steel factory site on the North Side as well as other properties close to the campus before entering into negotiations with the United Center.
Competition for DePaul heated up last fall when Emanuel went public with his determination to bring the DePaul Blue Demons basketball program back to Chicago.
At the time, sources said the mayor wanted to build a new home for DePaul near McCormick Place--using the convention center's excess bonding authority--to serve as a catalyst for development of restaurants, clubs and other nightlife the convention center now lacks.