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New Price Tag, Details Emerge For DePaul Arena

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Jay Levine Jay Levine
Jay Levine is the chief correspondent for CBS 2 Chicago. He joined...
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CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday continued to duck reporters’ questions about the proposed sports and entertainment complex for McCormick Place.

But details of the plan, which includes an arena for DePaul University basketball, have begun surfacing — including how much it will cost, and who will pay for it.

The arena would cost about one-third less than the $300 million price tag that was originally reported, sources told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine. It also would include more than just an arena for basketball games.

CBS 2 has learned the mayor will formally announce the new project on Thursday, and he is going to great lengths to avoid talking about it until then.

Emanuel avoided reporters on Tuesday, ducking out a side door after announcing a summer parks plan. He also avoided CBS 2’s cameras at City Hall.

However, he did brief Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), whose ward lies within the site for the new complex, just north and west of McCormick Place.

“This proposal that I’ve seen is not just about a center. It also includes hotels, it includes retail, it includes more restaurants,” Dowell said.

But, Dowell said, it won’t include a casino.

Though the old Michael Reese Hospital site to the south of McCormick Place is an option.

The city bought that property and had planned to build an Olympic Village there–before the 2016 Games went to Rio de Janeiro instead.

An empty lot just west of McCormick Place will be part of the hotel-arena complex, according to Dowell, similar to the Staples Center in Los Angeles, which holds sporting events and concerts and is also adjacent to a convention center.

But it was built with private money. Taxpayers would pick up part of the tab for the sports and entertainment complex near McCormick Place.

“Sometimes you have to make an investment in city resources to be able to generate tax dollars,” Dowell said.

According to a City Hall source, the new arena alone would cost $195 million.

About $70 million would come from the city hotel-motel tax, $55 million would from tax increment financing funds, and $70 million would come from DePaul, which would be able to sell naming rights to the arena.

The owners of the United Center had offered to let DePaul use the stadium for 10 years, rent-free, for its basketball games, in part to block building a new concert venue. Dowell said convention goers don’t want to travel that far for events.

Jim Reilly, CEO of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority that runs McCormick Place, said “the proposed multi-purpose event center…will immediately improve our ability to attract shows.”

It was not immediately clear how DePaul would come up with $70 million.

Dowell must now sell the plan to skeptical neighbors, and work with city planners to minimize the inconvenience and maximize improvements to the neighborhood.

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