Construction on the new DePaul University basketball arena and events center at McCormick Place is officially underway. After months of delays, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and DePaul president Rev. Dennis Holtschneider finally broke ground on the $164 million project on Monday morning, which was originally scheduled to kick off last January.
The 10,000-seat venue will play host to the school's basketball games, as well as conventions and events such as Chicago Public Schools graduations. But while DePaul is benefitting from a shiny new arena for its mediocre basketball teams, the Catholic university isn't footing the whole bill for its construction—the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority is covering half of the cost. City Council originally earmarked $55 million of tax-increment-financing funds for the project, but, after a good amount of public backlash, the university announced that it would not accept them, and that money was redistributed to the construction of the $390 million Marriott Hotel that will accompany the arena.
The arena isn't expected to be complete until 2017, at which point the South Loop will look very, very different. A pair of massive skyscrapers are coming to the neighborhood, and Mayor Emanuel's office is claiming new venues and hotels at McCormick Place will create a new "Entertainment District." With the city in dire financial straits, Rahm has referenced building a "Chicago-owned, Chicago-run casino" that would help off the city's huge pension debt. It wouldn't be surprising if McCormick Place became home to Chicago's first legal gambling den.
The arena was designed by architect César Pelli, who also designed DePaul's new theater building. Renderings of the place show a gorgeous glass façade and a roof that screams modernity.