New DePaul basketball arena, Marriott hotel move to McCormick Place

By Metro Reporter

McCormick Place may be seeing the beginning construction of two adjacent neighbors this summer. 

Construction of the new DePaul University basketball arena and Marriott hotel, 625 S. Ashland Ave., will begin in July. The arena and hotel are being built along with the new Green Line stop at Cermak Road, and the event center will open in the fall of 2016, according to a Sept. 13, 2013, Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority press release.

The MPEA chose Chicago-based architecture firm Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects, a firm with more than 20 years of design experience including a 10,000-seat event center at McCormick Place for large conventions and DePaul basketball games, according to the press release. 

The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority owns McCormick Place, which is the largest convention center in North America. There are currently 2.6 million square-feet of exhibition space between the North, South and West buildings and Lakeside Center, according to the press release. 

The McCormick Place features 173 meeting rooms, the 4,249-seat Arie Crown Theater and one of the largest ballrooms in the world.

Fred Clarke, senior principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli, said the company has designed a luminous event center that it hopes will portray the facility in an inviting light for the types of events it will host.

The MPEA Board’s decision followed a two-phase Request for Proposals process for architects known for generating public excitement and having more city attractions, according to the press release. 

The new building will house large business meetings and DePaul’s men’s and women’s basketball games. It will also be home to concerts and special events, according to the press release. 

“The construction will include a 1,200-room hotel to serve as the headquarters for conventions and trade shows, a 500-room mid-market hotel and venues for dining and entertainment,” according to the press release. 

The Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, whose members live near McCormick Place, are wary of the plan. President Tina Feldstein said she does not think the construction of the new arena is necessary. 

“They believe that by having a 10,000-seat event space that it will attract conventions that they cannot have right now,” Feldstein said. 

She said there have been difficulties securing bookings for the Arie Crown Theater, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, which holds 5,000 people, and that it does not make sense to build a convention center that holds 10,000 in hopes of having a better turnout for conventions. 

“The arena is going to cost $180 million, half of which is going to be paid by DePaul and the rest is being funded by state bonds,” Feldstein said. 

She also said there is a large amount of debt from the MPEA, and its purchase of the event center will only add to that increasing financial burden. 

“It is one piece of development that we never supported,” Feldstein said. 

She said she thinks the arena will cause parking problems, traffic problems and other ills. Feldstein also said irresponsible students attending games will negatively affect the neighborhood. 

“[The entertainment center] would bring in most shows and more employment,  [along with] more money to the city and residents of the city,” said Chicago resident Pora Whitlock.

Kenneth Sampson, a Chicago resident, said he thinks the entertainment center will be a great tourist attraction. 

“Me, being a DePaul fan of basketball, I can’t wait for it,” Sampson said. “It is going to be really nice.” 

He said the hotel and arena will not have negative effects.

According to the press release, the building will be beneficial. 

“The addition of the event center will allow Chicago to offer a comprehensive and flexible package allowing for new jobs and tax revenues which ultimately have a direct effect on our economic prosperity,” according to the press release.