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Report: DePaul in talks for new hoops arena near McCormick Place

Updated: October 30, 2012 6:12AM

DePaul University, on the hunt for a new home for its basketball team, may have bigger plans than moving into the United Center with the Bulls and Blackhawks.

Big — as in new arena big.

Crain’s Chicago Business reported on its website Friday that DePaul, the nation’s largest Catholic university, is in talks with the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority about building an arena near the massive convention center.

The report comes on the heels of Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed revealing Friday that DePaul is in serious talks to move to the United Center from its current home, the Allstate Arena in Rosemont.

Crain’s, quoting “multiple inside sources,” said the separate McCormick Place talks are part of a deal being pushed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel. McPier’s bonding authority could be used to raise the cash to build the arena.

Emanuel’s spokeswoman refused to comment Friday, and McPier officials couldn’t be reached.

DePaul wouldn’t specifically comment on the McCormick Place report, other than to say they are indeed looking for a new city home.

“As noted in our strategic plan V2018, one of DePaul’s goals is to seek opportunities to bring men’s basketball back into the city,” the university said in a statement. “To that end, DePaul will consider any proposal that will help us accomplish that goal. As of now, however, nothing definitive has been forthcoming.”

In 1980, the Blue Demons, in need of more space during legendary Coach Ray Meyer’s reign, moved most of their basketball games away from Alumni Hall on its Lincoln Park campus to the then-Rosemont Horizon next to O’Hare Airport.

But DePaul officials have been longing to bring games back to Chicago, in part, to boost its ability to recruit talent. Sneed reported Friday that the university checked out the A. Finkl & Sons Co. steel factory site on the North Side as well as other properties close to the campus this summer.

A switch to the United Center would put the Blue Demons smack dab into an emerging new United Center-area complex that could include a Bulls practice facility. The Bulls in June announced they were leaving their Berto Center practice facility in Deerfield for a Chicago site, possibly in the UC parking lots.

That’s where a planned $95 million entertainment complex is in the works. Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz — an investor in Wrapports LLC, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times — want to create a 263,000-square-foot retail-and-entertainment center on the east side of the United Center that would add four restaurants, four bars, a team store, an event space, team offices, parking, a terrace, an atrium and a green roof, according to Metropolitan Planning Council documents.

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