CHICAGO- After months of negotiations with the City of Chicago and other involved parties, DePaul University will finally get a new home for the Blue Demons men’s basketball program. There were two press conferences to announce the development on Thursday…. One was held early in the day by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the other was held by the DePaul University athletic department that afternoon.
This new arena will be located very close to McCormick Place on the near South Side. Overall, this development is just a piece of a much larger project that will also see improvements made to McCormick Place and Navy Pier. In a previous article, I talked about how DePaul got to this point.
Since January there were some recent developments before today’s big announcement. Originally, the university had explored land near the Lincoln Park campus. Unfortunately, the only way to have a new Lincoln Park facility would be to tear down area homes and businesses.
In February, DePaul had turned down an offer from the United Center to play it’s home games there. With the Bulls and Blackhawks playing in the same season, availability and operation expenses became an issue. Then in March, there was word about the possibility of DePaul building a new arena on a land currently occupied by an old warehouse who’s company has packed up and moved to the far South Side.
This warehouse is currently located at the corner of Southport and Cortland off of the north branch of the Chicago River. From there any talk of a new arena had died down. That was until a report by ESPN Chicago came out on Monday that an announcement for a new DePaul arena was imminent.
Then late Wednesday night, a press release sent out by DePaul confirmed that report. So on Thursday, DePaul detailed the features of the new 10,000 seat facility. This was followed by the press conferences which took place today. I personally attended the conference held by the athletic department.
Athletic director Jean Lenti-Ponsetto, men’s basketball head coach Oliver Purnell, women’s hoops head coach Doug Bruno, DePaul media relations director Greg Greenwell, and DePaul Student Government Association president Caroline Winsett all spoke at the event. It was held at the McGrath-Phillips Arena, the current practice facility for the men’s team and the home floor for the women’s team.
While the men’s team will be the primary tenant at the new venue, the women’s team will also play some home games there. DePaul also hopes to hold concerts, high school sporting events, and other DePaul related events at the new building as well. It is expected to open in time for the 2016-2017 college basketball season. Until then, the men’s team will continue to play at Rosemont’s Allstate Arena.
Here are some artist renderings as to how everything will look when the project is said and done:
Here are the videos from the official athletic department press conference, it begins with an opening statement from Jean Lenti-Ponsetto:
Afterwards, Caroline Winsett gave a brief speech:
Then to end the media session, both basketball coaches spoke briefly starting with Doug Bruno:
Followed by Oliver Purnell with a final word from Jean Lenti-Ponsetto:
After the event, I spoke one-on-one with Oliver Purnell:
I also got an exclusive interview with Jean Lenti-Ponsetto:
Bobby Simmons, who was a star forward for the Blue Demons from 1998-2001, was also in attendance and was kind enough to speak with me:
Hopefully DePaul’s athletic program will continue to go up from here. For sports anytime you can follow me on Twitter @GabeSalgado82