Updated: September 10, 2012 2:00AM
TO: The Westminster Kennel Club
FR: Rocky Wirtz, Co-Chairman, United Center
We want to make a deal, and it has nothing to do with swapping members of our Chicago Blackhawks with your New York Rangers, nor our Bulls with your Knicks.
See, here in Chicago, we make no small plans. In short, we’d like the Westminster Dog Show to move from Madison Square Garden to the United Center.
Yes, I’m aware of the international popularity and rich history of your extraordinary event. After 136 years, it is second only to the Kentucky Derby among continuous sporting events in the U.S. But you could have it so much better! And isn’t 136 years enough?
Now, before you turn this invite into a chew toy, hear me out.
Chicago is a city full of dog lovers — we go out of our way to make our dogs feel special every day. My wife, Marilyn, and I have two wonderful beagles at home: Bernie and Queenie. Thousands of acres of forest preserve trails, dog-friendly parks and beaches — yes, dog-friendly beaches — await here, meaning you never have to jet off to the Hamptons just to splash around with Fido.
We’re also home to dozens of dog-friendly establishments and events. For example, if your pooch is into late nights, Joe’s Bar on Weed Street has weekly Doggy Happy Hours and Doggy Film Festivals. And Bad Dog Tavern in Lincoln Square, despite the name, is a place for good dogs and good people, too. Every spring, a swanky downtown hotel hosts a Doggie Tea Party, where it’s white gloves, gold crowns and even sushi for our four-legged friends. And on July 19, our Lake Michigan shoreline is the place to be for the 10th annual PAWS Chicago Beach Party.
How dog-friendly is our city? Just ask Uno, the beagle that won your Best in Show in 2008 — and who happens to have been bred in Illinois.
Chicago rolled out the red carpet for him when he visited. Had his own driver, stayed in a dog-friendly hotel suite, met with celebrities and politicians and even trotted across the United Center to the cheers from thousands of people. And that’s exactly how Chicago would treat every one of your thousands of furry contestants.
As for the “Westminster” name — no worries there. Your club was named after an old hotel, where your upper crust founders would gather at the bar for meetings. Here in Chicago, not far from the United Center, we have Westminster Hot Dog, a much better namesake, where I’m sure they’d be glad to host your meetings. Just don’t ask for ketchup. Ever.
My guess is that if you asked your contestants for a “paw” vote, we’d win. But this is Chicago, and there’s politics in every decision. Rahm Emanuel vs. Michael Bloomberg? A pit bull vs. a Yorkie. I like Chicago’s chances.
And finally, it was my grandfather Arthur, who brought the first ice shows to your Rockefeller Center decades ago, entertaining New Yorkers for years.
We’re owed one.
Rocky Wirtz donated his fee for writing this column to PAWS Chicago and Chicago Blackhawk Charities. He is an investor in Sun-Times parent company Wrapports.