McCormick Place west building 2300 S. King Dr. Friday, May 4, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times
Updated: June 18, 2013 8:24AM
Should Chicago do more to attract conventioneers and tourists?
Sure. We see great promise in that.
Is McCormick Place a notoriously cold space with a Goldilocks problem — sometimes too big or too small — that could use some warming up, beginning with a couple of hotels and some decent restaurants?
Could Navy Pier be less cheesy?
But Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a big plan this week to upgrade McCormick Place and Navy Pier that, more than anything, leaves us scratching our heads.
We’re not convinced that his big, new addition to McCormick Place — a 10,000-seat sports arena where the DePaul Blue Demons would play basketball — makes sense. Especially when $103 million in taxpayer dollars is involved. If DePaul were to use it 18 nights a year, who are these corporations, schools and conventions just dying to use it the other 347 days?
We can’t help but agree with preservationists that the arena would sit like a spaceship at the south end of the Prairie Avenue Historic District, destroying any sense of a neighborhood feel. We’d like to see the proof that tax-subsidized sports arenas — in Chicago or anywhere — are worth the money. And we were under the impression that money raised from special taxing districts is supposed to be used, by law, to revive blighted areas, not to divert $33 million to a sports arena.
The Navy Pier end of the pitch, packaged as “Elevate Chicago” by City Hall, raises fewer questions, perhaps because it is modest in ambition. What’s not to like about a big fountain — and a skating rink in winter — at the drab entrance to Navy Pier? We’ve been on board with an expansion of the Children’s Museum ever since it gave up the fight to move to Grant Park.
But now the elephant in the room: a Chicago casino.
Anybody can see that a big casino is likely the secret centerpiece of this cobbled-together lakefront party plan.
Where exactly, Mr. Mayor, would that fit in?