New DePaul Arena helps "Sell" the Program

Recruiting is to college basketball what lending is to financial markets; lifeblood.

Landing better recruits will help DePaul obtain more wins. More victories equals more publicity, higher ticket sales, more je nes se quoi. And as consequence, improved future recruiting classes. It’s a snowball effect; a positive reinforcing cycle. However, the DePaul Blue Demons lacked that catalyst to get the ball rolling. In computer terms, they needed a “killer app.”

They acquired it with the new downtown arena. Blue Demons basketball will soon be playing home games again with the city limits of Chicago; where they belong.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and DePaul University worked together to finalize the deal on a large-scale project near McCormick Place. It includes construction of a 10,000-seat, multipurpose events center. DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said today the new arena is already helping to land Chicago area prep recruits. Purnell said the positive impact on recruiting is already being felt in the very next class.

“It will be one of the major selling points without question,” Purnell said.

“I can tell you that facilities are huge in terms of influencing a prospect and his family. Certainly perception right off the bat, it helps you. Because perception can become reality in so many cases. This is a positive PR tool for this great institution.”

The new arena is planned for Cermak Road between Indiana and Prairie avenues. Under this new plan, approved by Mayor Rahm Emanuel former White House Chief of Staff, the building costs will be shared evenly between DePaul and the MPEA.

Construction will begin in 2014, and it should open in time for the 2016-2017 Big East college basketball season, hosting 17 DePaul men’s games. Since 1980, the Blue Demons have played at Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont.

I asked Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto how come this deal was closed under the Rahm regime? Since the University has been trying for so long to get this done, how come it never happened under Mayor Daley?

“It really is just a factor of timing,” Ponsetto said.

“We had worked with Mayor Daley on a number of institutional ventures before this. This is something we intended to do in this strategic plan that went from 2012-2018. It just so happened that Mayor Emanuel was the mayor at the time."

DePaul will fund this investment through a number of revenue streams: ticket sales, venue naming rights, DePaul A.D. fund raising and the Big East Conference. Nothing is in the works yet regarding arena naming rights.

Big East by-laws, or should I say Catholic 7 religious edicts, declare that all venues must seat at least 8,000 for conference games. McGrath Arena expansion was not a viable option; despite it’s choice location right in the heart of the DePaul Lincoln Park campus. There just wasn’t enough space in Lincoln Park Trixie territory.

Playing way off campus in the burbs, asking much of their fan base to fight O’Hare plus evening rush hour traffic on the Kennedy is hurting their cause. Traffic issues, and the distance to Rosemont were reoccurring themes at today’s press conference.

The contract between the city of Rosemont, All State Arena and will be renewed on year to year basis until the new arena is ready.

And the recent deal between Fox Sports and Conference will also considerably help branding for the program. So things are very much looking up in Blue Demons Nation.

Paul M. Banks is the owner of The Sports He’s also an author who also contributes regularly to MSN, Fox Sports , Chicago Now, Walter and Yardbarker

Banks has appeared on the History Channel, as well as Clear Channel, ESPN and CBS radio all over the world. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@PaulMBanks)

Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Leave a comment