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Mayor supports Bulls practice facility, DePaul basketball arena under one roof

Updated: November 12, 2012 12:08PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel voiced support Wednesday for a development that could solve two separate problems: where to put a Chicago Bulls practice facility and a basketball arena for DePaul University.

One facility could serve both needs, Emanuel said during an interview with the Sun-Times editorial board. The mayor declined to voice a preference for a location, saying talks continue with Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf and DePaul.

Reinsdorf has committed to move the Bulls’ practice center to Chicago from Deerfield, where his team trains outside of public view. It’s widely expected that a city location would provide some type of interaction with fans, but the team has not said if it intends to invite spectators to practices.

Emanuel said DePaul could share the Bulls facility as its new home arena. Bulls home games would continue at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison.

The Blue Demons’ men play their home games in Rosemont and DePaul has been seeking a site closer to its Lincoln Park campus.

The mayor noted that Bulls practices do not overlap with DePaul games. “You could see a separate stadium [for DePaul] and you could see something else,” Emanuel said.

Asked about the economic advantage to the city of hosting the Bulls practices, Emanuel said it could generate business for stores and restaurants. He also alluded to a small benefit in residential real estate.

“I know where the players are moving” if the practice site comes to downtown, Emanuel said.

Talks with Reinsdorf haven’t gotten site-specific, Emanuel said. “We’re just talking about different places,” he said.

“The first thing we wanted to do, and we did it, was to get Jerry to move practices into the city.”

The Bulls and DePaul could not be reached for comment.

DePaul has checked out at least two Lincoln Park sites for its arena: Finkl Steel at 2011 N. Southport and Morton Salt at 1357 N. Elston. But the community’s alderman, Michele Smith (43rd), said DePaul has not consulted her on any new site, an indication the two properties are not being actively pursued.

DePaul also could share the United Center or build an arena near McCormick Place.

Reinsdorf, meanwhile, is already planning a mall and restaurant center on the United Center’s east parking lot, the one with the Michael Jordan statue. The Bulls haven’t said if they wish to work the practice center onto that property as well.

The Bulls owner, who made his fortune in real estate, is known to like the revenue potential of mixing sports arenas with other attractions. His Chicago White Sox hold spring training near Glendale, Ariz.’s Westgate City Center, which includes the home of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes.

However, chunks of the complex and vacant land around it went into foreclosure last year.

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