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Bulls To Move Practice Facility From Deerfield To Chicago

Tom Thibodeau at the Berto Center. (Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)

Tom Thibodeau at the Berto Center. (Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)

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UPDATED 06/13/12 – 5:12 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — After 20 years, the Bulls will be saying goodbye to the Berto Center in Deerfield, in favor of a new practice facility in Chicago, likely right next to the United Center.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports the new practice facility is tentatively scheduled to be built on the site of a parking lot across the street from the United Center, where the Bulls play their home games.

But that’s just part of a larger overall plan for the site. The city would also like a new CTA ‘L’ stop on the Pink Line, which that runs about a block east of the stadium, right next to the parking lot targeted for the new practice facility.

The Bulls said the practice facility could be part of a “large restaurant- and retail-based complex” on the east end of the United Center.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports

Mayor Rahm Emanuel recently pitched the idea of moving the practice facility to Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

The mayor said he told the Reinsdorf and the Bulls that he didn’t understand why their practice facility was in Deerfield, and not the city.

“You’re a Chicago-based basketball team. What are you doing practicing offseason in Deerfield?” Emanuel said. “Let the people in Deerfield come down to Chicago, spend some money and see the team, if you want to see them practice in the offseason.”

The mayor sent Reinsdorf a letter in April, urging him to move the team’s practice site to Chicago, near the United Center.

“I encourage you to take a leadership role in investing in the West Side by bringing the Chicago Bulls training facility to the United Center,” Emanuel wrote Reinsdorf.

It turned out Reinsdorf thought it was a great idea.

“The Mayor stressed that the Bulls brand is important to the city, nationally and internationally, and that the Bulls represent the spirit and competitive grit of Chicago. He thought centralizing our team assets inside the city limits would be a show of our ongoing commitment to Chicago,” Reinsdorf said in a news release. “We have been contemplating how to address the growth limitations of our practice facility for awhile, so the Mayor’s timing and ours seems to make sense.”

Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz were already working on plans for a big entertainment complex right across from the Michael Jordan statue at the United Center.

The planned entertainment complex would reportedly enclose the statue in an atrium connecting the stadium to the new facility. It would also reportedly include four restaurants, four bars, a team store, new office space for both teams, and a green roof. Sources said the Bulls and Blackhawks are close to wrapping up a deal for that project.

Unstated, but clearly implied, is the teams’ desire for continued favored tax treatment, but Emanuel said he is committed to making sure taxpayers are “not taken to the cleaners.”

Even though the mayor was clearly excited about the plan for the new practice facility and a possible entertainment complex and new CTA stop, he was not yet willing to commit to extending property tax advantages for the United Center set to expire in 2016.

“I’m glad that they’re thinking of their expansion, but that doesn’t mean because you do that, you get what you got 20 years ago,” Emanuel said. “Twenty years ago is 20 years ago, and we’ll see – when we engage in the conversation, which we have not, to date, engaged – it will be on a different set of terms.”

Emanuel said the move would not be tied to any deal to extend property tax breaks for the Bulls at United Center.

“There is no TIF [tax increment financing] involved and we haven’t even begun discussions about any [property tax] extension,” he said. “This was a pure request about .. bringing a business back into the city.”

The United Center partners won some tax relief when they built the complex, starting in 1992.

The Bulls’ move of the Berto Center will happen whether or not those tax incentives are extended.

Meantime, north suburban Deerfield will lose some high-profile visitors and hotel customers with the Bulls leaving town, but officials indicated the village will be fine without the team.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody reports

Deerfield Village Manager Kent Street told WBBM Newsradio’s John Cody the Bulls decision to move practices from the Berto Center to downtown Chicago is indeed a loss, but understandable, as more team members choose to live in the city.

“We recognize the business needs to have people living close to where they’re working,” Street said. “We understand that, recognize that, and we also appreciate the fact that the Bulls were here 20-plus years at the Berto Center, many years before that at the Multiplex, and we wish them every success.”

Street said his village hopes the Bulls do as well practicing in Chicago as they did practicing in Deerfield, when they won six NBA titles.

The Bulls say they have been happy at the Berto Center for many years, but the facility has space limitations that no longer allow the team to grow.

The Bulls also point out that many of the players endure a long daily commute to the Berto Center, which is located at Lake Cook and Waukegan roads in Deerfield.

The Berto Center opened in September 1992. It honors Sheri L. Berto, a longtime assistant to Reinsdorf who died in outpatient surgery the year before.

The team plans to sell the facility.