Bulls relocation impacts suburb, West Loop and players

By Kyle Rich

The Bulls are back in Chi-town.

The team announced plans Nov. 16 to move its practice facility from the Sheri L. Berto Center in Deerfield, Ill., to a new facility adjacent to the Bulls home court at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison St., according to a press release issued by the team.

The move is expected to occur in time for the 2014-2015 season, when the facility is slated for completion, the release said.

The release credits Mayor Rahm Emanuel with the idea of building a new facility within city limits. Mayoral spokesman Tom Alexander said keeping the Bulls franchise entirely in the city has been one of Emanuel’s goals since taking office.

“He’s been actively involved in encouraging them to come back to the city with their practice facility,” Alexander said. “It encourages lots of excitement around the team. [The] West Side and West Loop is developing rapidly, so the more excitement around the United Center [means] more development.”

While many are supportive of the move, it won’t be without logistical issues. According to Cheryl Raye-Stout, sports reporter and blogger for WBEZ and an adjunct faculty member in the Radio Department, only two core members of the team reside downtown, and most of the team live in the northern suburbs near the current facility. Raye-Stout speculated that some Bulls players are likely to move downtown to be closer to the practice facility and the United Center.

“It will diminish the commute they have been doing for games,” Raye-Stout said. “That’s been a difficult issue with players arriving late and dealing with traffic.”

The decision also carries negative effects on the privacy of players, she said.

“I think for the players right now, it will be a possible inconvenience and distraction,” she said. “They like to have that suburb bubble [with more] privacy. This facility is more fan-friendly, [while] the Berto Center in Deerfield is a more secluded, private area.”

Kent Street, village manager of Deerfield, said the center, which includes exclusive parking for Bulls staff, was built with players’ and coaches’ privacy in mind.

“It is exclusively a Bulls practice facility,” Street said. “This is where they do their work.”

He said Bulls players eat and shop in Deerfield, where the team’s presence is a point of pride

for residents.

Street said he doesn’t know what will come of the Berto Center and expressed regret that the team

is leaving.

“It hurts community pride [more] than fiscal impact,” Street said. “We certainly have enjoyed their presence here, but we recognize that’s a good business decision for them to make, and we

respect that.”

Alexander said the move will be beneficial to Chicago residents.

“[The mayor] doesn’t just want the players to come down for games, but to live down here, be involved in the neighborhoods,” Alexander said. “That brings not only an economic impact, but [also] brings the excitement of having the star players [in the city].”