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Senate panel advances funding plan for DePaul basketball arena at McPier

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With reporting from Dave McKinney

SPRINGFIELD-A key Senate panel Friday approved a plan pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn to allow McPier to build a 10,000-seat, $173 million DePaul University basketball arena that would double as a venue for trade shows and conventions.

By a 10-5 vote, the panel advanced to the full Senate floor what has been called a "Christmas-tree bill" for its array of pork-projects tacked to it. The measure passed the House Thursday by an 81-35 vote, and Quinn said he'd sign it if it passes the Senate.

The massive, 371-page bill is being carried by Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago), who touted the bill as an economic development package.

The plan extends a deadline on a tax-increment financing district and allows bonds already authorized to be used for convention activities and hotels to extend to land acquisition for and construction of the multi-purpose arena.

"This is a real partnership...We're both getting something that we need," said Jim Reilly, CEO of Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, who testified on behalf of the bill. "We need it for events. They need it for basketball, and by partnering, we're getting something we couldn't otherwise have."

Cullerton's legislation, backed by Will County, also permits the Illinois Department of Transportation to enter into a series of public-private agreements with contractors to develop and operate the long-stalled, proposed south-suburban airport in Peotone.

Additionally, the legislation contains provisions authorizing $3 million in annual funding during the next six years to transform the south suburban Brownfield area into an intermodal facility and granting Rosemont new borrowing authority for convention center renovations.

As in the House, Senate Republicans were concerned about how the bill only just surfaced this week for their review.

"I do have some concerns about the way this has come together," Senate Republican leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) said. "In the end it may be okay, but for now I have to be a 'no' until we have more information."

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