Bulls unveil $25 million plan to build practice facility on lot near United Center
BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org April 24, 2013 4:48PM
Chicago Bulls' new practice facility, 1901 West Madison Street, Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Updated: May 29, 2013 6:25AM
The Chicago Bulls on Wednesday showcased their $25 million plan to build a new practice facility on a United Center parking lot, but reported no progress on their quest for an extended property tax break needed to build a $95 million entertainment complex.
“Our players are young. They want to live in the city — just like I did when I was younger,” Bulls President Michael Reinsdorf said, after a courtesy unveiling before the Chicago Plan Commission.
“It’s one thing for you or I to drive an hour to the games. When you’re expected to drive an hour or 90 minutes, then play in the game, it does drain your energy. But look — we’ve won plenty of championships in years where we practiced in Deerfield. For us, it’s more about taking advantage of everything the city has to offer.”
Last summer, the Bulls announced plans to move their practice facility from Deerfield to Chicago. Five months later, they settled on building the facility on United Center Parking Lot J on the corner of Madison and Wood.
On Wednesday, Reinsdorf showcased the 60,000-square-foot facility that will replace the Berto Center after next season.
Designed by 360 Architects, the handsome new facility includes a “saw-toothed” façade with opaque glass at the pedestrian level “for security” that become transparent at higher levels.
“The intent is to celebrate the team’s accomplishments within that space that can be seen from the outside,” project manager Michael Day said as he displayed a rendering that features the six NBA championship banners the Bulls won during the 1990’s era of Michael Jordan.
The plan also calls for new parkway trees and landscaping along Madison and Wood that should enhance the experience for fans going to Bulls and Black Hawks games at the United Center.
Ald. Walter Burnett (27th) asked Reinsdorf whether the Bulls intend to open practices to the public when they make the move to Chicago.
When Reinsdorf said no — that he didn’t want to give the competition a leg up — Burnett said, “Can I come and see?”
The Bulls are building the new practice center without a subsidy. But, their plans to build a $95 million retail and entertainment complex nearby is contingent on nailing down a modified version of the property tax formula that has saved the Bulls and Hawks millions on property tax bills assessed against the United Center.
The tax break is due to expire in 2016. It includes a complex formula that ties United Center property taxes to stadium revenues, with a $1 million-a-year minimum. The UC’s most recent property tax bill was $2.5 million.
“This is step one,” Reinsdorf said, arguing that the request is “more about an extension of a tax formula—not necessarily a tax break.”
When Reinsdorf noted that there have been “no additional discussions” on the politically volatile issue in recent months, Burnett got an assist worthy of Kirk Hinrich.
“I hope they can get that because it’ll be great for the community. A lot of jobs. It’ll enhance the area. It’ll be a good thing,” Burnett said.
Housing and Economic Development Commisioner Andy Mooney said the city is planning to rebuild a CTA Blue Line station and add streets scaping along Damen Ave. to benefit both the Bulls facility and a new Malcolm X College.
The so-called “Eisenhower Corridor” is one of seven areas targeted forpublic and private investment by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“This is coming together at a very good time,” Mooney said.